Vibraphonist Warren Wolf opens his third album with “Soul Sister”, one of six original compositions that shows his versatility and progress in writing his own songs: the track oozes class, spirit and yes, soul and features some bright and brimming playing by John Scofield, who, together with Brad Mehldau, Christian McBride, and Jeff “Tain” Watts, rounds out what can be described as an all-star band.
Warren follows up the tune with the longest track on the album, the 11-minute “Four Stars From Heaven” which meanders along crisply and elegantly with some fine playing by Brad and also features one of the most imaginative and creatively inspired playing by the leader. The same can be said of “King Of Two Fives” which has some quasi-chamber-like passages and simply sounds cute. Did I hear some “I’m Getting Sentimental Over You” imitation on this one? Nice.
There are Chick Corea/Gary Burton moments on the Dave Samuels composition “New Beginning” and the group gets into full gear on “Cell Phone”, a weird and almost chaotic-sounding piece probably describing our insane dependency on our phones. But the free-flowing playing and staccato moments here lead to some intense playing by Brad and Warren.
And then there is the mighty Bobby Hutcherson. Warren covers one of my favorite Hutcherson compositions, “Montara” (from the 1975 Blue Note LP of the same name) and delivers a pretty cool and mesmerizing interpretation of this masterpiece. Scofield is back for a second track, “Havoc” which didn’t really do it for me with its uneven meter and altogether too hectic rush.
But there is much more on offer here: a tune by Gene Perla, the bassist who played with Elvin Jones and whose “Tergiversation” can be heard on Jones’ 1972 LP “Merry Go Round”, also on Blue Note. Warren sounds like a weirdo again on this one, but a sympathetic one. And he shows his softer and mellower side on Stevie Wonder‘s “Knocks Me Off My Feet” (from “Songs In The Key Of Life”, 1976). “A Prayer For The Christian Man” is an introspective, very deep and elegiac number. The only standard on the album is “Stardust”, which Warren plays as a solo piece before segueing into Chopin’s “The Minute Waltz”, showcasing yet another part of his artistry as a prime solo player with a knack for classical pieces.