Peter Lamb and The Wolves bring their signature jazz to their third album

photo courtesy of Peter Lamb—photo courtesy of Peter Lamb
Peter Lamb and The Wolves |

Tenor saxophonist Peter Lamb just turned 40. At his home in Raleigh in the Mordecai neighborhood, we sipped the same bourbon pushed by Bill Murray’s character in the film “Lost in Translation.” The familiarity and mutual appreciation for music in general filled the air, but more the thriving, unmatched surplus of North Carolina artists.Lamb, born in San Francisco but reared in Raleigh, made a name for himself while playing tenor sax with several bands, most notably the Squirrel Nut Zippers offshoot band, The Countdown Quartet. In 2008, Lamb formed his own jazz combo, the renowned Peter Lamb and the Wolves which includes pianist/vocalist Mark Wells, younger brother Paul Rogers on trumpet, drummer Stephen Coffman, and bassist Pete Kimosh. He and the Wolves just released “Carolina Tiger Milk,” their third album which boasts Maceo Parker and 17 other notable N.C. musicians. Ten tracks, consisting of traditional gospel, jazz standards, and originally penned tunes—masterfully played with an air of exquisite timelessness — showcases the indefinable N.C. sound Lamb set out to exhibit, but also the sheer talent of each contributor, and how perfectly they blend. The backdrop, or common denominator, of the record is jazz. But it’s a spectrum, a smattering of everything.The sonic blueprint for the record begins and ends with producer Dave Tilley. Lamb speaks highly and with respect of his longtime friend and Peter Lamb and the Wolves devotee who produced all three of Lamb’s albums. A true architect of sound, Tilley, who has worked with the likes of Jack White production on The Grand Ole Opry, implements “true amplification” and uses the studio as an instrument, as evident on Carolina Tiger Milk.Regarding the new album, N.C. music, and his experience playing up north, Lamb quipped, “the people around here are absolutely as good as the people in New York. Like North Carolina has a barbecue, we have a voice, a swing, an accent…like a soul groove that is very relatable.” The variety of each guest’s musical art form on the album makes for a true taste and celebration of what makes up North Carolina’s rich musical tradition.With voice sculpted by gargling concrete, it seems, Bullfrog Willard McGhee’s vocals swing soulfully alongside the easy strides of Mark Well’s work on the ivories. Lamb’s fiery sax riffs, leaving ample room for Al Strong to strut his stuff on trumpet, are kept in time by the docile pulls and thuds of stand up bassist Pete Kimosh. And this is the just the first track: gospel standard, “Just a Closer Walk with Thee.”In “Smoke Rings” we meet trumpeting marvel, Paul Rodgers, Peter Lamb’s younger brother by 11 years. Lamb praises kid brother as “the one in the family with the most talent,” who shines brightly in every instance on the record.Through the course of “Carolina Tiger Milk” is undeniable talent, from flutists Mary Boone and Murphy Change, tenor saxophonists Stephen Riley and Fo Finch, to Marsh Woodwinds proprietor Rodney Marsh on baritone sax. Add to that the vocal contributions of Lisa Wood on boogie-woogie jaunt, “I’m Evil”, with Paul Rodgers trading trumpet licks with brother Peter. This track creates a place in time which cannot be defined. It could be 1930 it could be 2013, but it’s rife with antiquity calling on the spirits of America’s great jazz era — still alive and kicking right here in N.C.The unmistakable vocals and piercing guitar style of Django Haskin’s of The Old Ceremony brings substance and added timelessness to the record’s appeal in “Under Paris Skies.” Renowned the world over, Maceo Parker (Kinston native and current resident), as Lamb describes “the true personification of funk saxophone”, is best known for his integral role as a piece of James Brown’s invention of funk music with The JB’s, Brown’s longtime band. His presence on the final track, “His Eye is on the Sparrow” is in no way ahead or behind any of the players who jumped at the chance to make “Carolina Tiger Milk.” Maceo is right there, next to fellow sax men Peter Lamb and Stephen Riley, doing what he does best.The enthusiasm with which each of the 23 musicians contributed to this album is evident in the playing, and if you listen closely, there’s laughter and jest among the players between each song. It’s really and truly North Carolina music in pure form.Carolina Tiger Milk can be purchased on iTunes and