By any other name: Artist To-Ree-Nee Wolf paints in music in new release
If you spend much time in Downtown Tucson, you’ve probably seen To-Ree-Nee Wolf’s imagination writ tall on the side of a building.
An accomplished local visual artist, Wolf is responsible for numerous murals and public art installations around town, remarkable for their bright, vibrant images and mythic, fantastical themes, larger than life and often touched with ancient Egyptian motifs. And, if you’re lucky, you’ve heard Wolf’s voice, rich and strong and resonant, as she acts in local productions or calls out an invocation to the urn as part of Tucson’s All Souls Procession finale.
But even if you’ve heard her voice, you’ve never really heard her song.
Like many creative souls, Wolf is not one to be confined to a single medium for very long, so she’s dabbled in many creative ventures over the years, including not only different forms of visual art, but also live performance. For the most part, though, music had been a side project. An aspect of performing. A secret and comparatively quiet joy.
But over the years, Wolf found herself writing song lyrics. And melodies. And music that wanted to be heard.
Because sometimes our art chooses us and it doesn’t come in the form people expect of us. It comes in the form we need.
So now, with the release of her new CD, “A Wolf By Any Other Name,” To-Ree-Nee Wolf shows us another side of herself. Jazz-kissed soul with just a hint of blessing by the folk rock foremothers. It’s a project that’s been a long time coming, but Wolf is proud to share the end results.
Tucson Sentinel: This CD was a long time in the making. Tell us a bit about what went into it and why you took the "slow and careful" route?
To-Ree-Nee Wolf: "I've had the title for my CD for a very long time, it kind of came to me in an almost vision more than 20 years ago and it stayed with me. I thought of other titles but 'A Wolf By Any Other Name' as my first CD felt right. I believe in the timing of things. Thirty years ago I was singing at my own art opening on Toole Avenue when Bob Byars walked up to me and said emphatically 'I want to produce your CD.' He said it with such conviction and appreciation. I just smiled. I didn't know that down the line, he would do just that."
"I really wanted to put together a CD that was high quality, where every song was the best that it could be. The CD would work as a whole and be a listening experience. Because I'm also a visual artist (mosaics, murals, big public art projects) often I've had to allocate years at a time to certain projects. Sometimes public art projects can be years in the making - complex, demanding and requiring huge amounts of artistic focus as well as levels of physical endurance. There have been times I just didn't have the bandwidth to work on a CD."
"And there were financial considerations to take into account. I wanted to give the CD, my music the time it took to do it well. "
"And then the whole process of recording was interrupted when my husband was diagnosed with throat cancer a couple of years ago. I'm pleased and grateful to say that he's cancer free."
TS: Glad to hear that he's doing better! What inspired you to choose the covers you did and what informed your approach to them?
TW: "Both covers, 'Moon River' and 'River Man,' are songs that I deeply love and feel strongly about. 'Moon River,' I've loved almost all my life and it's one of the most beautiful ballads. And 'River Man' is so hauntingly exquisite. I wanted to compose my own arrangements but still maintain the melodic and structural integrity of both songs."
TS: Tell us about a few of your original compositions on the album.
TW: "I'm a painter / visual artist as well as a singer songwriter so often my lyrics are very visual and cinematic. My love for history, quantum physics, science fiction, myth and the natural world is woven into my songs. The first song 'Jump The Timeline' is a mixture of all of these things. I reference the Middle Passage, Appaloosas and the Nez Perce thwarted flight to Canada and Igbos Landing in the title song, 'A Wolf By Any Other Name.' I have an ongoing love affair with the moon so that comes up a lot."
TS: What made you fall in love with music? What were your influences... early on and now?
TW: "I've alway loved music. Even as a child, I would sometimes cry at the beauty of certain songs or musical compositions. Jazz, Joni Mitchell, James Taylor, Thelonius Monk, Charles Mingus, Miles Davis, Brazilian Music, Wayne Shorter, Chaka Khan, Kenny Rankin, Cassandra Wilson, Carmen McRea."
TS: Your music kind of defies genre but how would you describe your style to the others?
TW: "A lot of open/jazz chords, perverted folk edge with Brazilian overtones and percussive elements."
TS: You are a bit of a renaissance woman! Tell us about some of your other creative pursuits.
TW: "I have several big public art projects in town: five 18-foot-tall mosaic obelisks on Silverbell Road between Ina and Cortaro, mixed media Monument at the Quincie Douglas Center on 36th and Kino, a major mural at 5th and Broadway, Downtown. And I was lead actress in the award-winning feature film 'Unsound' by the very talented Darious Britt.
TS: And right now you're in a play!
TW: "I'm in the play 'Gloria: A Life' at the Invisible Theater. I get to portray the fabulous outspoken Flo Kennedy. The play opened February 16 and has been extended to March 7."
TS: Who are some other music and arts folk in Tucson that you love?
TW: "AmoChip Dabney one of the producers on the CD, he is beyond stellar musician. Heidi Wilson, sax player, one of the best. Kathleen Williamson - we both share the same birthday and we've been singing together off and on for years. She's a fabulous guitarist and singer songwriter who tackles many social issues. When we sing together, we're known as The Scorpio Sisters.
"Singer Cantrell Maryott-Driver has one of the most powerful and moving voices. Mitzi Cowell, she was made to have a guitar in her hands, she is that good. Karen Falkenstrom at Odaiko Sonora. I adore Will Clipman, percussionist extraordinaire. Up and coming young rapper Luke Murray writes densely textured captivating rhymes. And for hard rock, check out Andrew Miceli."
TS: Parting thoughts?
TW: "The last piece on my CD, 'Theory of Flight' pretty encapsulates my philosophy and view of this life as it interweaves and intersects with other planes of existence. The yearning for higher consciousness and the acceptance that we are more than we have been told. The grounding of tht wisdom in the Body. The idea that 'We are the ones we have been waiting for' is woven into my DNA."
Pandemic days have put any plans for a traditional in-person record release on hold, but you can get a physical copy of To-Ree-Nee Wolf’s debut CD “A Wolf By Any Other Name” the old fashioned way — by buying locally. You can contact Bob Byars at email@example.com to snag a copy.