The last album I would like to present this year comes from Warren Wolf, the Baltimore based vibraphonist and composer. His album ‘Reincarnation’ was released in February 2020 and it found it’s way to my ears just some weeks ago.
Reincarnation represents a rebirth of Warren Wolf’s love for the R&B and soul hits from his formative years in the 1990s.
‘I realized I was about to turn 40,’ explained Wolf. ‘I was 21 when I first went out on the road as a pro. So, for almost half my life I’ve been playing straight-ahead jazz. But that’s not how my dad, who was my first teacher, raised me musically. Jazz was always a part of it, but he wanted me to play everything: classical, R&B, hip-hop, ragtime, pop – but those things eventually faded away. Looking toward the second part of my life, I realized I need to bring those aspects back to life.’
The songs on the album are all Warren Wolf originals with the exception of one Isley Brothers hit. He searched and found a group of musicians that share his experience to be equally versed in the jazz tradition and the spirited feel of vintage R&B.
The line-up is:
- Warren Wolf – vibraphone.
- Brett Williams – Fender Rhodes and piano
- Richie Goods – electric and upright bass
- Mark Whitfield – guitar
- Carroll “CV” Dashiell III – drums and percussion
- Imani-Grace Cooper – vocals
- Marcellus “Bassman” Shepard – vocals
See this little promotion video for some more insights:
The album starts with a smooth intro presenting the “new” Warren Wolf followed by the first highlight of the album.
‘For Ma’ is a beautiful song with a steady groove and great melody, switching to kicks in the vibraphone solo before picking up and going back to the steady groove and the head. This song features Warren Wolf and his vibraphone.
‘Vahybing’ is in contrast a jazz tune, a bass vamp lays the foundation of this song and piano and vibraphone are pushing each other plus the drummer adding extra tension. The second half of the song starts with a sole piano followed by a riff that allows the drummer to play a solo.
The next song ‘In the Heat of the Night’ features the vocals of Imani-Grace Cooper and Marcellus “Bassman” Shepard in a highly sensual dialog of a lovers rendezvous. Incredible Fender Rhodes sound by Brett Williams plus some tasteful guitar by Mark Whitfield create an outstanding ambience.
‘The Struggle’ is a song where Warren Wolf reflects the suffering faced by several of Wolf’s loved ones from a horrendous car accident affecting his ex-wife to the troubles of Baltimore streets. Nevertheless, great music perfectly played with another fantastic vibraphone solo.
The Isley Brother song ‘For the Love of You’ comes next and this song features again Imani-Grace Cooper on vocals. Another great groove song with the killer Fender Rhodes sound and some rhythm guitar by Mark Whitfield. The outro of this song features one more time Carroll “CV” Dashiell III on drums and percussion.
‘Sebastian and Zoë’ is a tribute to the two youngest children of Warren Wolf. Imani-Grace Cooper’s singing is again commented by Marcellus “Bassman” Shepard adding this special vibe to the song which we heard before and which is one of the main characteristics of this album.
‘Livin’ the Good Life’ provides a warm summation of the album’s theme and of Wolf’s current happiness. Nice to hear the extra backing vocals added. The setup is pure jazz – vocals, vibraphone, piano, upright bass and drums. The vibraphone solo switches to swing rhythm – just a brief detour for a single minute, to prove to longtime fans that Wolf hasn’t abandoned his straight-ahead chops.
‘Come and Dance With Me’ comes next and this song features Warren Wolf on vibraphone and Brett Williams on piano in a Jazz waltz composition dedicated to Waren Wolf’s wife, a ballerina and teacher who he hopes will use the song in her classes.
The ‘Smooth Outro’ ties the album up to the intro and closes the set. Nice idea and another opportunity for Marcellus “Bassman” Shepard, aka “The Man with the Voice,” to add an old-fashioned radio-style farewell.
‘Reincarnation’ is a fantastic album that contains perfectly played music with great taste and incredible groove. The performance of these musicians is outstanding and the combination of jazz musicians who have sucked in R&B music when being breast fed make this album so precious.
More information on Warren Wolf is available on his website:
And here comes the complete album as playlist: