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Warren Wolf: Beyond Perfect Pitch

By Published: August 20, 2013
WW: But the gig was like 50 bucks for four hours. They let me play everything that I knew. So I called all the tunes that I knew from Baltimore..."Sugar," "Stolen Moments," "Ornithology," "My Little Suede Shoes..."songs that they don't play at the club. So they said, "oh yeah, you sound good, come back tomorrow." So I come back the next day and they start calling tunes that I now think everybody should know but at the time I had no idea what they were. Like "In Your Own Sweet Way," "You Stepped Out of a Dream." So instead of writing all this stuff down, cause at this point I had perfect pitch, I figured, "well I don't have to know the melody right now, I can at least hear these changes out." So John, Jeremy, Darren Barrett
Darren Barrett
Darren Barrett
, Jaleel Shaw...those were the main ones that really got me started in Boston. GC: I'm trying to remember the first time I met you. You were playing drums, it was a jam session. I showed up with Tim Warfield
Tim Warfield
Tim Warfield

sax, tenor
, I don't even remember why I was there...but I think we showed up and played "Solar" or something.

WW: Was it Wally's?

GC: I don't think it was Wally's, was there another place?

WW: I thought the first time that you and I met was with Tim on a New Year's gig.

GC: Yeah, a New Years gig with Rodney Green in Pennsylvania. With Chris Bacchus. I remember that, that was a while ago. Alright, so when did you start playing with Christian McBride?

WW: I started in 2008. I got a call from a woman in this office, somebody he was working with at the time. They said, "Mr. Wolf, Christian McBride would like to have you in his band for one week at the Village Vanguard." He had these things called the "Christian McBride Situations." I think a lot of people knew how badly I wanted to play with Christian so I thought it was a prank call. I was like, "man, stop playing" and they said, "no we really want you to play, we'll take care of everything, we've got the hotel."

So I went up, and we all thought it was just going to be a week. So it was me, Steve Wilson
Steve Wilson
Steve Wilson
sax, alto
, Carl Allen
Carl Allen
Carl Allen
, Eric Reed
Eric Reed
Eric Reed
. So after the show's over, people were raving about that band. Keep the band together, keep it together. So he said okay, and booked a gig somewhere in South America, and then we did Monterey right after. I thought that was going to be it. At that point, I was in Houston, doing many gigs here and there; I've never actually been in a band. As a matter of fact, I didn't even think bands existed in jazz anymore.

GC: Wow, that's really telling.

WW: Yeah. But then they were saying we're going in the studio and doing a record. I still thought it was like no big deal, I mean how many cats go into the studio and release records and then go off and do something else? But after we released the record, we got some gigs. Again I was like, "okay, a couple gigs, I'm used to this." But they said, "no, we're going to keep it going!." That record was Kind of Brown, and we've been touring that record even up until today, four years later!

GC: Does he have a new record coming out?

WW: We just recorded it back in Spring of this year. So hopefully it will be coming out at some point next year, when he's done with this Monterey All-Stars Tour.

GC: I don't know how much time we have before we hit... there's so few people here, I wonder if they'll delay it... anyway, in closing: what are your thoughts— I would deduce that, because you have probably very few memories of life without being a multi-instrumentalist (and you play bass too, we don't even have time to talk about that)—what are the benefits of being a multi-instrumentalist for you?

WW: For me it gives me the knowledge to know what I want to hear in my band. There's so many times where I'm doing my own gigs, and if the pianist isn't doing something right, I can get on the piano and tell you, "try this." Same with the bassist. I could at least show them something, what I'm hearing. Also it helps with teaching. I'm teaching now at Baltimore School for the Arts, as the jazz instructor. I can always sit down at least with the rhythm section and tell every one of them to try this, try that. At least from the rhythm section perspective. When it comes to horns, I could tell you how to solo but I can't work on sound much. It just helps me be a complete musician. It gives me knowledge; I don't want to have to say, "okay, I know vibraphone stuff." I like to know it all.

GC: Speaking of vibraphone, legend is that you don't even own a vibraphone! How do you feel about that?

WW: I feel fine. [laughs] I actually sold my vibes about five years ago on eBay.

GC: Because you never use them?

WW: Nah it wasn't that, I was playing gigs on them. I just needed some money because I was trying to finish a CD of mine. The thing is, my dad has a set of vibes, I can use them... which I do, when I need it. I just don't have one in the house. I live almost 30 miles from my parents; I just don't feel like driving down there all the time.

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