Warren Wolf & Wolfpack (a quartet) on March 14, 2015 at Miniaici PAC, Davie, Florida

Bob Weinberg posted this to Facebook:
March 16 at 3:46pm

If you’ve been following jazz during the past couple of decades, you may remember when Benny Green (51 years old in April) was considered a “young lion.” So, it was a bracing jolt to hear vibraphonist Warren Wolf, 35, refer ever-so-reverently to the pianist — who joined Wolf’s quartet Saturday night at the Miniaci PAC in Fort Lauderdale as part of the South Florida JAZZ series — as the cat he and his bandmates listened to religiously as teenage jazz students. Wolfpack bassist Kris Funn, who grew up with the vibist in Baltimore, corroborated this after the show, telling me he could sing the solos from Testifyin’!, Green’s 1992 live at the Village Vanguard album.

But the reverence seemed very much reciprocated, as Green brilliantly complemented and frequently mirrored Wolf’s remarkable mallet work. Funn and Wolfpack drummer Quincy Phillips (another Baltimorean) were excellent, keeping pace on breathless workouts such as Wolf’s “One for Lenny,” and providing nuance and shading throughout. Wolf was cool elegance personified, but genial and charismatic, as well, as one might expect of a Christian McBride protégé. His speed and athleticism were as impressive as ever, but he never let virtuosity get in the way of soulful expression. His composition “Wolfgang,” the title track to his 2013 chamber-jazz album, was a standout, starting with a stately theme that bowed to Mozart via the Modern Jazz Quartet, before opening into a cooking ensemble piece.

Wolf and Green also performed a duo reading of Ellington’s “Love You Madly” that showcased their compatible skills and admiration for one another. Although the pianist and vibist have worked together before (Green played on the Wolfgang album), this concert pairing was the concept of SFJ president Ron Weber, who regularly makes this kind of magic happen. Next month: Manuel Valera’s New Cuban Express.

One thought on “Warren Wolf & Wolfpack (a quartet) on March 14, 2015 at Miniaici PAC, Davie, Florida

  1. I wanted to comment on the show, but Jack and Bob beat me to it. I second everything said. We should have a discussion about two- v. four-mallet vibraphone technique. The two mallets lend themselves to enormous speed and power and lines played more like a horn player; whereas four-mallet technique is more pianistic and converts the vibraphone into a chordal instrument, which of course it is, with its notes laid out like a piano’s. The multi-mallet playing has more color and harmony, obviously and plenty of hand speed if the player is Gary Burton, but a dynamic two-mallet player like Warren Wolf (or Milt Jackson, for example) does not leave the listener begging for more harmony. Warren plays ballads beautifully and his up-tempo pieces are like a very well-oiled musical machine that plays not just fast, but coherently and brilliantly.

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