Born and raised in Baltimore, Warren Wolf was introduced to music at a very young age.
“It really came through my father, Warren Wolf Sr.,” Wolf said. “He is a retired Baltimore City public school teacher, but he played music on the weekends. Just like any child, I would say, when they see their parents doing something that looks fun, I saw my dad playing vibes and various percussion instruments. So I started copying him.”
For Wolf, copying his father playing the vibraphone lead to lessons, albums and performances, such as the one Wolf will have on Friday at the Mansion at Strathmore in North Bethesda.
Wolf, who started his training when he was 3 years old, said he was able to pick up on things from his father very quickly.
“I had my first professional gig [when I was] 5,” Wolf said. “After that, that’s when all the training started kicking in — 90 minutes per day in my father’s house, Monday through Friday and on Saturday mornings I would take lessons at the Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore.”
Wolf admits that some people tend to flock to the saxophone or the trumpet when it comes to playing blues and jazz. Wolf’s father, a vibraphonist, thought it would be better for his son to pick a different instrument.
“Once he knew that I was good, he said, ‘OK, what instrument can I put my son on that will take him somewhere else? Something that’s different?’” Wolf said. “We landed on the vibes. At the same time, I studied the drums and piano, which I still play to this day. I still play drum gigs and piano gigs. The vibraphone is the one that took hold of me.”
Although Wolf can play several instruments, he wishes he could play the upright bass a little better.
“I wish I could play that thing really well,” Wolf said. “I wish I could play it like my quote-unquote boss Christian McBride. The upright bass is very hard to play. It’s very demanding and it’s one of those instruments that you just have to continuously practice all the time.”
Wolf just released his second record, “Wolfgang,” on the Mack Avenue label. The first album, according to Wolf, was simply to let people know he was there.
“The first album, was simply called ‘Warren Wolf,’” said Wolf. “The statement that I wanted to make with that record was to basically show the world that I could play … to show everybody that Warren Wolf was the next star on the vibes.
“With this record, ‘Wolfgang,’ I wanted to showcase the beauty of the vibes and how classical music can be mixed with jazz. … We all know that when you listen to classical music, you hear these beautiful melodies, so I wanted to show a mix of the two and show how classical and jazz can coexist and, at the same time, showcase beautiful melodies.”
Music is Wolf’s passion. After spending so much time learning different instruments over the course of his life, Wolf said he never really thought of trying anything other than music — except maybe space exploration.
“I was a normal kid,” Wolf said. “I went to school and I went outside to play with my friends and things like that. I didn’t really have too much of an interest in, say, [trying] something else. I will say I wanted to be a fireman and an astronaut. Those are the two things I did want to be. I mean, there was nothing that I really wanted to try, like being on the baseball team or the football team. I wouldn’t have minded. I mean, it sounds fun now that I think about it, but I didn’t really think about that stuff too much then.”