Legal bulldog on the flute

“I love all the jazz cats in town — but women have a different energy."

Deborah Wolfe (2nd from left), among Women of Note
  • Deborah Wolfe (2nd from left), among Women of Note
  • photo by Shana Kala'akea

“I’ve always been a singer, ever since I was a little kid,” says Deborah Wolfe. “I used to dream of singing in front of a big band. My grandfather was a professional musician from Croatia and my father was an amateur musician as well. I picked up the flute when I was nine years old and I’ve been playing that my whole life.”

Like many musicians, Wolfe has a day-job — she’s a trial attorney. “I’m a specialist in legal malpractice law [for more than 25 years], meaning I sue lawyers who have made mistakes or betrayed their clients’ trust. There are a few bad apples that make the rest of us look bad — I’m kind of the pathologist of the profession. The good lawyers appreciate it because everyone knows who the bad lawyers are and I tend to go after them.”

Respect from other attorneys has earned Wolfe numerous commendations, culminating with the Daniel Broderick Award last September. “It’s kind of like the Oscars of the legal profession and I was very surprised to get it, because I’m known as a ‘bulldog’ in the field.”

Wolfe’s reentry into the music world came about from meeting two local performers. “I became friends with [vocalist] Whitney Shay and she was doing what I’d dreamed of but never had the nerve to do. Then I heard that the Downbeat Big Band was looking for vocalists, and I decided to audition. That’s how I got started. From then on, when I’d go hear Whitney sing she’d invite me onstage. Later on I met [trumpeter] Gilbert Castellanos, and he was so encouraging; he invited me to his jam session even though I had no connection with jazz.”

The singer decided to form an all-female ensemble called Women of Note after some encouragement from local concert impresario and flutist Holly Hofmann.

“It gives me the opportunity to sing what I want, and I want to do more performing. I had been taking lessons from [pianist] Kathy Shoemaker, and I knew [bassist] Jodie Hill from Whitney’s band, so we were looking for a drummer and found Tina Perez, who has been playing in rock bands for the last 40 years.”

“I love all the jazz cats in town — but women have a different energy — this is going to be fun.”

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