Warren Wolf’s Sunday Suppertime Jazz at Keystone Korner

The dark Sunday. We all know it. That first one back in standard time. 

It’s a very rainy day-after-Halloween, and the Ravens lost a tough one to the Steelers to top it off. The gloom descends. To bury one’s head in a pile of blues as we stare down the barrel of another cold dark winter? 

Oh no! For in Charm City we have a fantastic supper-time jazz set on Sunday evenings at the Keystone Korner! 

The quartet of Warren Wolf, (piano) Tim Green, (alto-sax) Quincy Phillips (drums) and Blake Meister, (bass) swung neatly out of the gate with an invigorating take on “In Your Own Sweet Way.” They moved steadily in the pocket, propelled gracefully by Phillips’s cuttin’ it up behind Green’s singing alto solo. One could hear flashes of Paul Desmond who himself pushed Brubeck to “write them some more material to play” instead of performing mostly standards. 

The unit was well-oiled by their second number, playing a convincing brand of hard moving swing with a composition called “Kwooked Stweet” by the prominent New York area Saxophonist, Dayna Stephens. Untied like a gift box by Warren Wolf, the Baltimore native who then shared it with his locally based crew–expediting an hour of darn-good jazz that made the seasonal fallback a lot easier. 

Every set’s gotta have a kicker. (And so should one’s football team.) That’s when they broke out the Monk. And what a treat it was to hear a number like “Skippy”, “one of the more difficult ones” as Warren put it. Thelonious lived on in Wolf’s journey up and down the keys–like only Monk himself could prescribe. They launched into orbit with plenty of cymbals from Phillips, and Meister holding it together soundly with his dynamic bass-playing. A brief pause to pick up Green who had been watching from the stage wing, who promptly let out a Birdlike phrase to harbinger his seat kicking solo which was rooted firmly in the bebop playbook. A glance back to the engine room where QP (as they’d been calling to him by now) put out a very purposeful solo, which set up a robust ending to a selection you’re probably not going to hear very often.

A final offering was aptly titled “November” written by the D.C. bassist Ben Williams, who Warren described as “a cat playing with all the big names right now” Layers of melancholy chords over a bouncy hard-bop form of drumming fit right in with the sullenness a dreary night can bring. But if the cats groove hard enough there’s plenty to keep you warm for the entire season. Tonight they most certainly did. 

Warren Wolf and “Swing-City” is an ongoing series of Sunday night appearances by all-Baltimore musicians at Todd Barkan’s Keystone Korner.

David Joseph grew up in Brooklyn, New York where he became an avid listener of jazz on WBGO radio.  Once while visiting his uncle in North Jersey, David was invited into the home of pianist Bill Charlap, who lived across the street at the time. Per David’s request, Charlap performed his arrangement of “All Through the Night,” which he’d recently recorded with his trio. That cemented David’s ongoing interest in jazz, as well as his desire to write about the artform which is most dear to him.