“Jazz needs a little more of this,” said vibraphonist Warren Wolf, who played his second night of music, this time playing mostly music from his 2020 album “Reincarnation,” on February 9 at the Dakota downtown Minneapolis.
Then he launched into the slow and sensual tune, “In the Heat of the Night” after saying that it was for grown and sexy audiences.
Wolf urged the crowd to listen to the lyrics, which he wrote along with the music. He added with a laugh, “I was in a particular mood one night.”
The lyrics were delivered with plenty of warmth and poise by vocalist Imani-Grace Cooper who is originally from Minneapolis, and now based in Washington D.C. and is featured on the album.
The night before, Wolf, who is in his early 40s, played a show billed as “The History of the Vibraphone” with songs by jazz legends. He’s no stranger to the Dakota as he’s appeared there first with drummer Karriem Riggins back in 2009, and thereafter with bassist Christian McBride.
The Baltimore native set the tone by opening the set with James Weldon Johnson’s “Lift Every Voice and Sing” sitting alone at the piano, then Cooper joined in on vocals before the rest of the band emerged.
His band also included Alex Brown on piano and Rhodes keyboard, Eliot Seppa on electric bass and upright, and Carroll “CV” Dashiell III on drums.
The best band interplay of the night happened when Wolf featured his new composition, “It’s a Party.” The groove was hypnotic with Brown, Seppa, and Dashiell III riffing off each other as they played one inventive rhythmic pattern after another.
Wolf appeared energized as he shifted mallets back and forth. The energy in the room was high as the band played with wild abandon. He encouraged the audience to make some noise and they did exactly that.
And the set just got greater from there with Wolf paying respect to his late teacher Dave Samuels with “Spring High.” Brown’s piano solo led to some engaging heated exchanges from his bandmates.
Brown continued to shine on Rhodes along with Wolf on vibes on their soulful rendition of the Isley Brothers, “Livin’ For the Love of You.” Cooper’s strong vocals made this arrangement all the more adventurous and commanding.
On “Fleur-de-lis” Cooper said she would sing the song in English instead of Portuguese, although that would have been equally engaging. The song featured a trio format with a solo by Seppa that was pure fire. Dashiell III played along on brushes and added some spice with shakers in hand.
To close out the show, Wolf, who by the way showed himself more than capable as a bandleader, featured yet another original tune, entitled, “Another Side.” He warned the audience that it was going to be “loud and aggressive” and it was, but in a good way. Wolf’s impressive athleticism and overall speed really showcased his talent well on this particular song.
Bringing the soulful grooves, and contemporary R&B to a steamy finish, the band saved their best for last with a straight-ahead tune for the encore. Wolf couldn’t recall the name of the tune, nor could anyone else on the bandstand, but that didn’t matter because like he said, they all knew it.
Seppa played a splendid upright bass, and Dashiell III controlled the pulse masterfully as he slammed the backbeat here and there with ample intensity.
At the end, Wolf promised to return to the Dakota for one-night-only with the SF Jazz Collective in April. Thank goodness, as it may take a moment or two to get ready for yet another breath-taking performance from Wolf.
Let’s just say the vibraphone legacy is in good hands.