Warren Wolf – Reincarnation Review
By Griff Stevens
Warren Wolf is back and making his Mack Avenue records debut with an R&B and soul focused album entitled Reincarnation. Warren’s first two records are on the M&I label and concentrate on more straight-ahead jazz. Incredible Jazz Vibes, which features Mulgrew Miller on Piano, Vicente Archer on Bass, and Kendrick Scott on Drums. Black Wolf, where Wolf is joined by Mulgrew Miller on Piano, Rodney Whitaker on Bass and Jeff “Tain” Watts on Drums, which is Wolf’s best album to date in my opinion. Warren “Chano Pozo” Wolf features Wolf performing on the vibraphone, drums, Fender Rhodes, and piano. The band is 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. Convergence found Wolf on vibes, marimba and pianos, Christian McBride on bass; Jeff “Tain” Watts on drums and pianist Brad Mehldau along with two songs that feature John Scofield’s soulful guitar work. Wolfgang, features two different three-man rhythm sections consisting of pianist Benny Green, bassist Christian McBride and drummer Lewis Nash; and pianist Aaron Goldberg, bassist Kris Funn and drummer Billy Williams, Jr. Reincarnation is an interesting date, but perhaps more of a side note in Wolf’s amazing catalog than anything else.
“In the Heat of the Night” is an example of what makes this project underwhelming. The groove is fantastic, created by bassist Richie Goods and drummer Carroll “CV” Dashiell III. Guitarist Mark Whitfield has a guest appearance and plays soulful wah-wah parts. Marcellus “Bassman” Shepard is featured speaking about a story of romance. Albeit Shepard has a fantastic speaking voice, but on an album, it is more of a novelty than something to listen to over and over again. His rich bass voice adorns four tracks on the project, so four of the ten tracks are really not keepers for most jazz listeners. Wolf’s fills are soulfully played. Imani-Grace Cooper eventually arrives to save the day with her beautiful singing voice. Also, why was Whitfield not given a solo? He is on two tracks with no solo space. The high-point of the song is Goods’ bass playing.
“For Ma” is the shining moment out of the ten tracks. Dedicated to his late mother, the song is performed by a quartet of Wolf on vibes, Goods on bass, CV on drums, and pianist Brett Williams. This selection has excellent playing by Wolf. The composition has varying moods and moments of space. What Wolf can do with two mallets is stunning. This is the most inspired playing on the album. Again, Goods’ bass playing is outstanding.
Reincarnation is an album that features Wolf’s love of R&B and soul. Wolf has reached the point in his career where he can explore any of his creative ideas. This album is one that is going to serve as a representation of his high skills in the R&B and soul musical stylings. Will it be in the high regard as his more straight-ahead albums? Probably not. I personally have downloaded a large number of Wolf’s previous material. However, with Reincarnation, my download button remains unvisited. I am anxiously awaiting Wolf’s next album.
Release Date: February 28, 2020
Label: Mack Avenue Records