You might not be that familiar with the name of the leader but just look at the line-up! For his third album the vibraphonist has Brad Mehldau on piano, Jeff “Tain” Watts on drums and the gaffer from another band he plays in, Inside Straight, on bass: yep, it’s Christian McBride, who also co-produces. As if that weren’t enough, John Scofield sits in on an couple of tracks.
The album opens with Soul Sister, a real good-time feel, Sco’ adding the funk, Watts thwacking the rim and Wolf ringing up the sunshine. What a joy.
Four Stars From Heaven feels like a suite, each solo – Watts, Mehldau, Wolf and Mehldau again – having its own character and atmosphere. Wolf and McBride chase each other in the sonic “Looney Tune” that is King Of Two Fives, while in Cellphone there is a different joke, a familiar ringtone appearing here and there. Havoc has some tremendous back and forth between Scofield and Wolf. All are really strong compositions.
There are also compositions from illustrious vibes forebears, Dave Samuels (New Beginning) and Bobby Hutcherson (Montara) as well a chirpy version of Stevie Wonder’s Knocks Me Off My Feet, and things come to a close with a very clever melding of Hoagy Carmichael’s Stardust and Frederic Chopin’s The Minute Waltz.
Wolf is no mere one-instrument man either – he plays piano and Fender Rhodes as well as marimba and vibes on the Wonder song. The sound is excellent and the whole production has a marvellous roundness to it in terms of programme, playing and character.
Convergence? Oh yes! It all comes together superbly.
Categories: CD review