VULFPECK FUNK MAESTRO Cory Wong was first exposed to music by his “music freak, music head” father, who’d constantly play records around the house. As a result, Wong’s formative years were played out against a soundtrack provided by Jimi Hendrix, Joe Pass, Pat Metheny and Ralph Towner.
“My dad had all this ECM catalog, the CTI jazz catalog and the Blue Note catalog — and then he had all this classic rock catalog,” he tells us on a rain-soaked day in the U.K. A great deal of the music he heard courtesy of his dad was guitar-driven, and the young Wong was “interested in the sound, interested in what it did to me emotionally, how the music made me feel.” He became curious about rhythm playing and, through intense metronome-based practice, he gained the ability to lock in with a rhythm section with scary precision.
In addition to playing with Vulfpeck, the Fearless Flyers and other bands, Wong has produced a host of solo albums, the latest of which is 2020’s Live in Amsterdam. Eagleeyed TV viewers might also have spotted Wong as part of the house band on Stephen Colbert’s late-night talk show.
Despite all that, during our pre-interview chat, Wong revealed that guitar wasn’t his first choice: “I actually started on bass.”
What persuaded you to switch from four strings to six?
At school, two kids said they’d start a band with me. One of them, his dad had a drum set, and the other one, his dad had a bass. He was like, “We’re not going to be able to buy a guitar, so maybe we just do two bass guitars?” I was like, “I don’t know if that’s going to work. Fine, screw it. I’m going to buy a guitar.” I wanted to be in a band that bad.
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