Warren Wolf: Reincarnation

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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:
http://www.warrenwolfmusic.com/

And here comes the complete album as playlist:

Samuel Leipold: Viscosity

Viscosity

 

Swiss guitarist Samuel Leipold has released an interesting and ambitious album on November 20. ‘Viscosity’ features Samuel as soloist. The inspiration for the songs came from studies on contemporary music and includes Japanese composer Toru Takemitsu, overtone compositions by French composer Gerard Grisey or minimalistic work by US composer Morton Feldman.

Samuel developed and composed the material on the album over a period of two years where he made little notes of sounds and intervals during practicing. His journey on sounds and how the fit together were the building blocks for the compositions.

He decided to put them onto a solo album because he found it very difficult to explain his ideas and the underlying esthetics to other musicians. Good friends also encouraged him to make this record

All songs were recorded during one session in October 2019 at a friends small studio in Lucerne, Switzerland.

The album starts with the title song ‘Viscosity’  where the guitar is accompanied by some cracking natural sounds which have been recorded just outside the recording studio.

 

The album continues with three compositions called ‘Sediment I – III’.  These compositions have been developed for two concerts where Samuel was asked to perform as soloist. We hear Samuel’s  passion for sounds, for clusters and for unconventional harmonies. The three songs are written out in detail and show Samuel Leipold’s expertise in composing contemporary music for the guitar.

‘Parsi’ plays again with ambient sound elements from which the guitar rises. Very nice guitar sound effects and great dynamics are the main characteristics of this tune.

‘Ex Machina’ is in contrast to the last song again a piece for solo guitar.  The sounds and harmonies developed in this song are partly composed and partly improvised. Samuel explained to me that this is the perfect combination for him, playing with sounds and reacting spontaneously and intuitively.

‘Shō’ comes next and this song is based on the Japanese reed musical instrument with the same name.  The chords are based on the clustered standard chords which the shō produces. Samuel is accompanied by a friend playing the bass clarinet. When I started to listen to the album I found this song being the easiest to listen to and it is still one of my favorite songs on the album.

The album continues with ‘Antimon’. Samuel told me that this song is based on a Villa-Lobos etude for classical guitar. He changed the tuning of the guitar where the A and the B-string are tuned a halftone below the standard tuning which creates this special sound. Adventurous but it expands our hearing conventions.

The album finishes with ‘Piano & Guitar’ a very spontaneous and improvised song where Samuel returns to ambient sound. Samuel told me that the inspiration for this song came from Morton Feldman’s ‘Piano and String Quartet’. Samuel plays the piano block chords and the guitar is very much alienated producing a very special and strange sound, more like a noise. However the song has a meditative character.

‘Viscosity’ is an album that combines avant-garde elements, ambient sounds, modern composition techniques and improvisational elements. It shows the musical exploration Samuel Leipold has taken and I find it great that he shares his ideas and personal expressions. I think to produce and release this album was quite a courageous step for Samuel but the result is remarkable and inspiring.

The album has a unique maelstrom  where solo guitar songs and ambient sounds alternate but create uniform aesthetics and a homogenous experience. Please take your time to listen to this album, you will not regret it

More information about Samuel Leipold is available on his website:
https://www.samuelleipold.com/

And finally the Spotify playlist with the complete album:

 

Jazz Music – Jazz Concerts