Untitled Compositions

"...compository sketches..." - S. Scott Franklin

Warren Wolf - Warren Wolf (Album Review)

Warren Wolf is considered to be highly proficient in several of music’s instruments. His degree from Berklee would, without a doubt, substantiate this claim. What I find most fascinating about Wolf, however, will most likely never reach the pages of his ever-growing résumé, at least not explicitly. This is something a bit more abstract. What most draws me to Wolf’s already infectious sound is that he is playing bebop in a modern setting. Naturally, this has peaked my curiosity. But, what sold me on his dynamic repertoire boils down to how he does it.

With minor exceptions, much of Wolf’s most recent album would fall into the category of bebop. Overall, it sustains much of the rhythmic velocity and technical acuity found in one of jazz most popular subgenres. But, it’s not the 1940s. This makes some believe that bebop is an antiquated transport for jazz, giving way to the onslaught of unforgivably tacky smooth jazz albums and hit-or-miss displays of hip-hop and jazz fusion. And I’m not saying that Wolf is outdated. In reality, his music is more refreshing than ever, an interest thought considering what he’s attempting to do. So, I have to tip my hat to Wolf on this one. At times, his approach is more Roy Ayers than Lionel Hampton, but I think that is why it works so well.

Wolf’s most significant work takes place along the aluminum bars of his vibraphone. Stylistically, he parlays his talents into a flexibility that fits each song. At times, he plays with a terseness used to enhance and not overwhelm the melody, as seen on “427 Mass Ave” and “Sweet Bread.” When given the opportunity to cut loose, however, Wolf does so tenfold. On “Eva,” we can hear the artist taking his solo journey with ease as he cuts through the bebop sensibilities of the record with flawless execution. Through it all, there is a certain vivacity with which Wolf plays. This point being what led to my reference of Ayers. There is an obvious understanding, amongst both artist and audience, that this is essentially jazz music but, there is a disconnect, in that the artist is decisively building a distinctive musical identity outside of the traditional realm. Wolf disregards the stoicism of older idioms to recreate something post-bebop, and yet, rooted in that very same tradition….”

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For The Revivalist