Artist: Warren Wolf
Label: Mack Avenue
Formats: CD, MP3
Release Date: June 10, 2016
If he is not already, vibraphonist Warren Wolf will soon become a household name for jazz fans. His third full-length release, Convergence, showcases Wolf’s development thus far and makes a strong case that he belongs on the A-list of jazz performers and composers. His all-star ensemble helps give Wolf a boost in starpower while also reminding listeners that he can easily hang musically with the long-time big boys of jazz. This supporting cast has countless records among them: Christian McBride (bass), Brad Mehldau (piano), Jeff “Tain” Watts (drums), and guitarist John Scofield on two tunes. Not only does Wolf hold his own with these longtime heavies, but he also steps up to the plate as a solid bandleader—the album includes six of Wolf’s own excellent compositions and five covers, ranging from delicate readings of Hoagy Carmichael and Chopin (“Stardust/The Minute Waltz”) to a soulful Stevie Wonder tune (“She Knocks Me off My Feet”).
The disc opens with Wolf’s original “Soul Sister,” a 4:54 burner featuring Scofield bending strings and using his most articulate phrasing, and Wolf comes in swinging, transitioning from bluesy motifs to hard-driving bop lines. Wolf’s composition doesn’t just lie in the typical soul/bop currency of contemporary jazz—for instance, the track “Cell Phone” is based upon a ringtone that Wolf heard while traveling at the airport, leading to an off-kilter sense of time and melody that animates the quirky tune. Wolf knows his history, too—his recording of Bobby Hutcherson’s “Montara” is a fitting tribute to the pioneering vibraphonist.
All in all, Convergence may be just that for Wolf’s career—the cast and set of influences he has assembled on this album reflect artistic and musical maturation. This is a must-hear release for jazz fans.
Reviewed by Matthew Alley