Prominent jazz vibraphonists have always been relatively few and Warren Wolf has the potential to be one of the top players of his generation. Wolf is joined by bassist Christian McBride, pianist Peter Martin, and drummer Gregory Hutchinson, with guest appearances by trumpeter Jeremy Pelt and saxophonist Tim Green. Wolf is a master of lyricism and restraint with his spacious interpretation of Johnny Mandel's timeless ballad "Emily." He doubles on vibes and marimba in an intricate interpretation of Chick Corea's "Señor Mouse." Six of the songs are originals by the leader. The composer takes a back seat in the sensual "Natural Beauties," showcasing Martin and Green (the latter on soprano sax) first before adding his dazzling solo.
Adapted from an autobiographical novel by Farley Mowat, Never Cry Wolf was director Carroll Ballard's worthy follow-up to his superb and much-loved The Black Stallion. Both pictures (as well as his later Fly Away Home) feature animals in central roles, as the communion between the human and animal worlds is a significant aspect of Ballard's films. Wolf's protagonist, wonderfully played by the reliable character actor Charles Martin Smith, learns more about himself as he enters the flow of his rugged surroundings and the family of wolves that he observes. It sounds romantic, but Ballard never sidesteps the ugliness of nature or the discomfort of loneliness. The result is a quirky, deceptively simple meditation on life. Shot on location in Alaska and the Yukon Territory, the film is as striking as Ballard's Black Stallion. Hiro Narita's clear, rich cinematography is marvelous, and the film's evocative, realistic sound was nominated for an Academy Award.