Just listening to the no-boundaries, acoustic jazz quintet Peter Lamb and The Wolves, you might guess that it formed to celebrate Truman’s inauguration, not Obama’s. Called into existence in 2008 to play Humble Pie’s presidential party, the band that resulted was just too good to leave be. Nowadays, living up to their fairy-tale namesakes, the Wolves peddle languid sophistication that is always a little bit dangerous. Their repertoire reaches back to New Orleans’ earliest syncopaters but also forward to hipster bards like Bob Dylan and Tom Waits; a tango might trip on the heels of a French waltz or a Russian folk song. The Wolves are sought out by swing dancers, but their tenderer tunes make the perfect nightcap for late-night lovers.
Five highly trained jazz musicians-who sound like seven-are at the heart of the quintet’s intimate chemistry. Lamb leads on tenor saxophone, aided by Al Strong on trumpet, Stephen Coffman on drums, and two musicians doing double duty-troubadour Mark Wells on vocals and piano, and George Knott handling upright bass as well as the elephantine bass saxophone. Wells’ vocal-high and round with just enough gravel to grab hold of some blues-is a double-boiler that can safely melt chocolate. Coffman paints an urbane jungle with his drumset textures, while horns flare and taper, of one mind yet independent. It takes discipline to know exactly when to relax and let loose, but everybody here knows what they’re doing, soloing with the panache of a jam session.