By Michael J. West | Published May 2020
The smooth-jazz-wary might immediately have their hackles raised by the title “Smooth Intro,” the opener of vibraphonist Warren Wolf’s Reincarnation. Truthfully, that descriptor only applies to the intro and outro, and the only smooth things about them are the grooves and commentary from Baltimore radio personality Marcellus “Bassman” Shepard.
What Reincarnation delivers instead is an accomplished jazz album with just enough melody, groove and prominent funk bass courtesy of Richie Goods to suggest the flavor of r&b, circa 1990. If “Vahybing” goes down easily with its concision and lyricism, it’s not because Wolf isn’t taking chances in his solo. He creates and develops phrases until they become themes in their own right, and even gives drummer Carroll “CV” Dashiell III a race for the solo’s finish. It’s tempting to compare the vocal tracks to pop songs. And without question, “For The Love Of You” channels the vibe of, say, classic Toni Braxton. Then, two-thirds of the way through, it reboots as a funk jam with Imani-Grace Cooper wordlessly improvising.
Every time the music seems ready to retreat without any derring-do, that’s when Wolf and company provide it.
Reincarnation: Smooth Intro; For Ma; Vahybing; In The Heat Of The Night; The Struggle; For The Love Of You; Sebastian And Zoë; Livin’ The Good Life; Come And Dance With Me; Smooth Outro. (53:48)
Personnel: Warren Wolf, vibraphone; Brett Williams, Fender Rhodes, piano; Richie Goods, electric bass (1–7, 10), bass; Mark Whitfield, guitar (4, 6); Carroll “CV” Dashiell III, drums, percussion; Imani-Grace Cooper (4, 5, 6–8), Marcellus “Bassman” Shepard (1, 4, 7, 10), vocals.