About the album
For a follow-up to his superb sophomore release Wolfgang, rising star vibraphonist/composer Warren Wolf finds himself alongside some of the biggest names in modern jazz for Convergence, his stellar third outing on Mack Avenue Records. Along with bassist Christian McBride, the all-world rhythm section is rounded out by master drummer Jeff “Tain” Watts and esteemed pianist Brad Mehldau. Renowned guitarist John Scofield is a featured soloist on two tracks.
After having the vibraphonist in his acclaimed Inside Straight quintet since 2007, longtime label-mate and mentor McBride produced the album and brought the band together to see how far Wolf could go. “It was a particular pleasure to bring Warren together with John Scofield and Brad Mehldau—two musicians he'd never worked with before,” explains McBride. “Warren's A-level musicianship clearly moves him into an echelon that musicians like Sco and Brad represent. I think the results were inspirational for all of the musicians involved.”
Together, they spur each other on to some dazzling heights on six Wolf originals and five well-chosen covers, running the gamut from funky soul-jazz to post-bop burners, intimate ballads and even a touch of classical. Convergence features some of Wolf’s most accomplished writing and dynamic playing to date, and his all-star sidemen rise to the occasion with some heat of their own from track to track. “What we wanted to do on this record is mix it up and not just have the whole band on every single track,” he explains—the album features everything from solo to quintet recordings, utilizing various configurations of this stellar lineup.
Convergence opens with the full quintet playing the funky boogaloo-cha “Soul Sister,” which is fueled by McBride’s inimitable deep groove and features some of Scofield’s nasty string-bending prowess. “I actually wrote that song a few years ago for a woman I was dating at the time,” Wolf explains. “She was just so bad...I mean that in a good way. She was so cool and just had all this soul about her. The song has a strong melody and is kind of bluesy, and I figured this would be the perfect song to have Scofield on, especially with his sound.”
The other quintet number, “Havoc,” is an aggressive fusion original inspired by Scofield’s “Trim,” a sizzling tune from the guitarist’s 1987 album Blue Matter that Wolf first encountered later on. This serves as a tribute to Scofield and brings Wolf back to his introduction to jazz back in ’93 when his father bought him a DCI instructional home video which featured the guitarist’s band from the ‘80s.
The expansive quartet piece, “Four Stars From Heaven,” evolves like a beautiful tone poem from an atmospheric opening to graceful waltz-time vehicle underscored by Watts’ simmering swing factor, gradually building to a kinetic straight eight feel that has the great drummer forcefully traversing the kit in typically Tain-like fashion. “I’m a father of four kids so I wrote this song as my gift from the creator above,” Wolf explains. “I was thinking about changing the name of the song because I’m actually expecting another kid soon. But for now it’s ‘Four Stars From Heaven.’”
“Cell Phone” is a blistering number that comes out of the gate charging hard and never lets up. This exhilarating quartet piece is fueled by Watts’ whirlwind polyrhythms and Mehldau’s insistent performance. The title comes from the vivid memory of a young woman at an airport with a cell phone that rang constantly, leaving such an impression on Wolf that the ringtone is essentially replicated by McBride’s bass line, and if you listen closely, you may even hear that familiar T-Mobile ringtone in Wolf’s solo.
Vibraphone legend Bobby Hutcherson’s mellow “Montara” is a chill trio number that has Wolf comping for himself on vibes while carrying the melody and solo on marimba. Following shortly after is “Tergiversation,” a briskly swinging trio number that features Watts on brushes at the beginning before he erupts in quintessential Tain fashion at the end of the piece. Wolf provides some vibes-on-vibes overdubbed accompaniment on this one.
Stevie Wonder’s lovely “Knocks Me Off Of My Feet,” featuring McBride and Watts, opens with Wolf exploring a bit before resorting to the familiar melody, and also engaging in some rapid-fire trades on marimba and vibes at the end of the piece. “I play an idea on the marimba and come back and play it on the vibes, going back and forth like that,” he explains. “So I was trying to cut myself, as they call it in the jazz business.” Wolf’s “A Prayer For The Christian Man,” the final trio piece on the record, is a brooding piece that carries an understated power in the vein of John Coltrane’s thoughtful dirge “Alabama.” Wolf plays piano, Fender Rhodes, vibraphone and marimba on this reflective number, which is underscored by Watts’ mallets work.
Wolf’s luminous duet with Mehldau on Dave Samuels’ “New Beginning” features some highly conversational playing between the two master musicians. “The whole point of Convergence is two minds coming together to form just one voice, and this song is a perfect example of that,” says Wolf. The jauntily swinging “King Of Two Fives” features Wolf and McBride in a buoyant old school dialogue that harkens back to the spirit of Duke Ellington’s duets with Jimmy Blanton. McBride’s contribution here has the bassist jumping back and forth from doubling the melody with Wolf to sticking to his fundamental role as a bass player.
For his finale, the lone solo showcase on the album, Wolf joins Hoagy Carmichael’s classic “Stardust” together with Chopin’s “The Minute Waltz” to stirring effect. He explains that the idea came about spontaneously on a gig. “We did a performance at the Savannah Music Festival and at some point I told my pianist Alex Brown, ‘Man, let’s play ‘Stardust.’ This looks like the type of crowd that would like it.’ And right at the end of the piece I went into a cadenza and started doing a trill on two notes. Alex picked up on that and started playing something that was very close to Chopin’s ‘The Minute Waltz.’ I knew that piece and Alex is a great classical pianist himself, so we started playing it together and just went ahead and played the whole song as a cadenza. People really enjoy the balance of going from grooving stuff to straight burning stuff. This whole record and my live shows are all about giving the audience a little bit of everything, not just one style of music or one type of jazz.
“I like to show that there’s always another side of Warren Wolf,” says the classically trained multi-instrumentalist, who has also been a member of the SFJAZZ Collective for the past two years. “I’m not just Warren Wolf the jazz musician who went to the Berklee College of Music and studied bebop, I’m Warren Wolf the musician who actually knows a lot of music from bebop to pop music, Motown, fusion and classical.”
Since graduating from Berklee, Wolf has taken the jazz world by storm, first as a sideman in Christian McBride’s Inside Straight quintet, then with his self-titled Mack Avenue debut in 2011 and Wolfgang in 2013. Now the vibraphonist-composer and multi-instrumentalist takes things up another notch on his excellent all-star outing, Convergence.
Warren Wolf is a multi-instrumentalist from Baltimore, MD. From the young age of three years old, Warren has been trained on the Vibraphone/Marimba, Drums, and Piano. Under the guidance of his father Warren Wolf Sr., Warren has a deep background in all genres of music.
Beginning with classical music, Warren had studied classical composers from Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, Paganini, Brahms, Vivaldi and Shostakovich. Warren also studied ragtime music learning music from the songbooks of Scott Joplin, Harry Brewer and Geroge Hamilton Green. In Jazz, Warren has studied artist and composers from Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, Freddie Hubbard, Clifford Brown, Herbie Hancock, Oscar Peterson, Milt Jackson, Bobby Hutcherson, Cal Tjader, Return to Forever, Weather Report, Wynton Marsalis and many others.
Warren attended the Peabody Prepatory for eight years studying classical music with former Baltimore Symphony Orchestra member Leo LePage. During his high school years at the Baltimore School for the Arts, Warren studied with current Baltimore Symphony Orchestra member John Locke. After graduating from Baltimore School for the Arts in June of 1997, Warren headed north and enrolled at the Berklee College of Music in Boston,MA.
During his time at Berklee, Warren studied with Carribean Jazz Vibraphonist Dave Samuels for seven of eight semesters.One semester was spent with vibist Ed Saindon. During his time at Berklee, Warren began to explore deeper into jazz. Some musicians who've helped Warren reach his musical goal during his time at Berklee were musicians such as Jeremy Pelt, John Lamkin, Darren Barrett, Wayne Escoffery, Richard Johnson, Kendrick Scott, Walter Smith, Jason Palmer, Rashawn Ross and many others. Through those musicians Warren becamse an active performer around the Boston area, gigging frequently on the Vibraphone, Drums and Piano. One of the highlights of Warren's stay in Boston was co-leading a quintet with Boston-based trumpeter Jason Palmer at the historic jazz club Wallys Cafe. Warren was the house drummer at Wallys for two years, performing every Friday and Saturday.
After graduating from Berklee in May of 2001, Warren became an active musician on the Boston local scene. Warren was hired in September of 2003 to become an instructor in the percussion department at Berklee College of Music. Warren taught private lessons on the Vibraphone and Drums, as well as teach a beginners keyboard class for entering freshman drumset majors.
After two years of teaching at Berklee College of Music, Warren headed back to Baltimore to start his main goal of becoming a full time performing musician. Since leaving Berklee as a teacher, Warren has landed the piano duties performing in the Rachael Price Group. Recording and touring with Rachael, Warren has had the opportunity to tour throughout the entire Unites States of America. Warren is currently the drummer of choice for Alto Saxophonist Tia Fuller, who tours with internationally renowned pop star Beyonce Knowles. Warren is also a member of the Donal Fox Group which includes bassist John Lockwood and drummers Dafnis Preito and Terri Lyne Carrington. Also, Warren tour and perform with Bobby Watson's "Live and Learn" Sextet, Karriem Riggins "Virtuoso Experience" and Christian McBride & "Inside Straight". With these three groups Warren has traveled the world. Warren has performed throughout the United States of America, South America, Canada, Italy, Spain, Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Scotland, London, Greece, Singapore, Thailand, Jarkata, Bangkok, Tokyo, Paris, Moscow and many other countries.
Warren has several recordings as a leader. Warren's first two records are on the M&I label which is based in Japan. The first record is titled "Incredible Jazz Vibes" which features Mulgrew Miller on Piano, Vicente Archer on Bass and Kendrick Scott on Drums. The second record is titled "Black Wolf". That record features Mulgrew Miller on Piano, Rodney Whitaker on Bass and Jeff "Tain" Watts on Drums. Warren has a self produced CD which is titled "RAW". That record features Darren Barrett on Trumpet, Walter Smith on Tenor Saxophone, Jason Palmer on Trumpet, Plume on Alto Saxophone, Kris Funn on Bass, Peter Slavov on Bass, Lawrence Fields on Piano/Fender Rhodes and Charles "Dogg" Haynes on Drums. On "RAW" Warren performs on both the Vibraphone and Drums. The fourth recording is titled Warren "Chano Pozo" Wolf. On this recording, Warren performs on the Vibraphone,Drums/Fender Rhodes and Piano. This recording features Tim Green on Alto Saxophone, Lawrence Fields on Piano/Fender Rhodes, John Lamkin on Drums, Dana Hawkins on Drums, Kris Funn on Bass, Louis Cato on Electric Bass, Delandria Mills on Flute, Tabreeca Woodside on Vocals and Integriti Reeves on Vocals. Warren has recently signed to the Mack Ave recording label. A future record will be released in the near future.
Musicians that Warren has played with or recorded with are Wynton Marsalis and The Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra, Jeremy Pelt and "Creation", Nicholas Payton, Tim Warfield, Adonis Rose, Donal Fox, Anthony Wonsey, Aaron Goldberg, Cyrus Chestnut, Lewis Nash, Willie Jones, Eric Reed, Mulgrew Miller, Terri Lyne Carrington, Yoron Israel, Larry Willis, David "Fathead" Newman, Stefon Harris, Reuben Rogers, Kevin Eubanks, Curtis Lundy, Steve Davis, Duane Eubanks, Ron Carter, Wycliffe Gordon, Robert Glasper, Esperanza Spaulding and many others.