Jazz interview with jazz vibraphonist Warren Wolf. An interview by email in writing.
JazzBluesNews.com: – First let’s start with where you grew up, and what got you interested in music?
Warren Wolf: – I grew up in Baltimore, MD. My father Warren Wolf, Sr. was my main influence for getting into music.
JBN: – How did your sound evolve over time? What did you do to find and develop your sound?
WW: – My sound has evolved over time because of “stealing” musical ideas from other artist. Some of my favorite artist from Charlie Parker to Miles Davis, Cannonball Adderly, Chick Corea, Milt Jackson and even non jazz artist such as Prince, D’Angelo, Donny McClurkin and 2Pac.
JBN: – What practice routine or exercise have you developed to maintain and improve your current musical ability especially pertaining to rhythm?
WW: – I’m very much a drummer even though the vibraphone if my principle instrument. I try to take rhythm from drums and place them over my ideas when improvising. For practice, I do a lot of transcribing from artist like Cannonball, Coltrane, Chick Corea and Oscar Peterson. I also play, on the drums, towards a lot of drum-less tracks via YouTube in order to keep ideas fresh.
JBN: – How to prevent disparate influences from coloring what you’re doing?
WW: – I always try to keep new ideas coming in. You always want to 1 up your competition but at the same time, you want to share some knowledge for the next generation.
JBN: – How do you prepare before your performances to help you maintain both spiritual and musical stamina?
WW: – I am a gym rat. Usually before my performances I’ll run outside or on the treadmill anywhere from 4-6 miles followed by 30 minutes of hard lifting. That kinda gets the blood flowing and my mind ready. I’m always listening to music when exercising.
JBN: – Ism is culled from a variety of lives dates with various performers over the course of a few years. Did your sound evolve during that time? And how did you select the musicians who play on the album?
WW: – I select my musicians based on the vibe. I generally, these days, only like to play with musicians who are comfortable in multiple styles. Jazz has to be the number one style but if you can play R&B, hip hop, gospel, funk and pop … I’ll love you forever.
JBN: – What’s the balance in music between intellect and soul?
WW: – You have to be intellectually smart when learning the music in the beginning but once you “get it”, it’s all heart and soul from there. You can’t be a brainiac playing this music.
JBN: – There’s a two-way relationship between audience and artist; you’re okay with giving the people what they want?
WW: – A long time ago, I was all about entertaining my fellow musicians. However, it’s the people who are spending their hard earned money to see you perform. Regular people, outside of music … they go to work from 9:00 to 5:00. Most want to be entertained, so I’m playing for the people always. Gotta give a show. I want people to remember everything I do once they head home for the night.
JBN: – Please any memories from gigs, jams, open acts and studio sessions which you’d like to share with us?
WW: – Too many memories in the gigs. If I had to pick one, I remember one hot summer day in Baltimore, MD and I went to see my friends who were playing with Wynton Marsalis at the Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall. I enter the room and go onstage to say hello. Wynton comes up to me, says hello and then says “Where’s your shit?” (He’s talking about my vibes). I told him “They’re in the house. I just came to say hello”. He says “Cmon man, you gotta hit with us since I’m here in town”. So I proceed home to grab my instrument. So Wynton calls me up on the 2nd tune and if I remember correctly, we play a blues. After the blues, I proceed to walk off stage. Wynton says to me “where are you going, just stay up here”. So I wind up getting a quick gig with his Quintet for the hour. And he pay me too.
JBN: – How can we get young people interested in jazz when most of the standard tunes are half a century old?
WW: – Jazz musicians need to be visible more. And I don’t mean going out to the clubs. I bet you if the SFJAZZ Collective, JALC or any group played simultaneously with some of today’s hottest stars, people will easily take notice. Look at Johnathan Baptiste and Stay Human…..people love that group!!!!!! We just need to be visible. People think jazz and they see everything in black and white, like those videos from back in the day. I remember watching a special on TV a few months ago and the news channel featured Michael Bublè and his jazz band for an entire hour….at 10:00pm. I also remember a few years ago, Christian Scott and his group were on one Jimmy Kimmel. It’s all about visibility.
JBN: – If you could change one thing in the musical world and it would become a reality, what would that be?
WW: – One thing I’d absolutely love to change about music is the business side of things; mainly when it comes to musicians deserving proper compensation. Too many agents and managers are living really good off of our hard work. Lots of leaches in the music world, they’ll take as much as possible. Music is a wonderful thing, we should be treated great.
JBN: – Who do you find yourself listening to these days?
WW: – I listen to tons of artist; weirdly enough, not too much jazz, just a tad. I love listening to BJ The Chicago Kid, D’Angelo, Corrine Bailey Rae, Karriem Riggins, Marquis Hill, Yiyo Sarante, Victor Manuelle, Mahalia, Stokley and others.
JBN: – What is the message you choose to bring through your music?
WW: – I try to bring love through music. I just like for people to have a good time when listening to me. That’s my mission on every album I record.
JBN: – Let’s take a trip with a time machine, so where and why would you really wanna go?
WW: – On a time machine … hmmmm, I think I’d love to go back to the 60’s. I recently watched “Who Killed Malcolm X?” I’m really into the reading about how life was back then. The music was also great too. I’d probably live in Detroit and just hang at Hitsville/Motown all day.
JBN: – I have been asking you so far, now may I have a question from yourself…
WW: – What is your outlook on the future of jazz?
JBN: – Fine !!!
JBN: – So putting that all together, how are you able to harness that now?
WW: – We all gotta keep playing, writing, performing for others and getting the youth involved. “Reincarnation” is my beginning to getting other folks to appreciate, love and check out jazz music.
Interview by Simon Sargsyan