HOME BIOGRAPHY CALENDAR SHOP REVIEWS PRESS KIT AUDIO VIDEO PHOTOS LINKS CONTACT
 
 
Reviews

Trio WUH: Live at Jazzinec

Founded in January, 2012 in Prague after an almost impromptu first gig together as a group, Trio WUH—which, although had been a part of a previous recording from the Prague Castle along with several other groups—present their solo debut album Live at Jazzinec taken from a 2013 live recording in Trutnov, Czech Republic. Spending his time between Pennsylvania and the Czech Republic, American pianist Skip Wilkins and Czech band mates, string bassist Frantisek Uhlir and drummer Jaromir Helesic, were in the middle of a three-week tour when one of their live performances—at Festival Jazzinec—happened to be recorded without their knowledge at the time. The presentation of select standards and new originals in a surprising but fortunate documentation of Trio WUH's live set, captures a compelling performance from arguably, one of the best new dynamic trios in the jazz world today.

The music begins with perhaps the most ambitious piece of the set, an audacious and expansive rendition of the time-honored Jimmy Van Heusen classic "The Second Time Around" featuring a monster performance from Wilkins on the keys as well as sensational solos from Uhlir, who comes from the "Czech String-bass playing school" as well as strong and sturdy drum work by Helesic—in a formula repeated throughout the session. The group plays fast and furious on Uhlir's "Bossa Cosa," the first of the bassist's three originals and then in contrast, slows down the tempo on the balladic Wilkins piece "Quiet, Please!

The trio seems to be on fire performing with gusto on such tunes as "You Are Never at Home," Wilkins' "Take The Fourth" and the devilish but outstanding version of the "Devil May Care" standard—all highlighted by more superb solos from members of the band. As tight and terrific this trio sounds performing lively up beat material, they are just as good when delivering the soft stuff as they do so well on the warm treatment of Antonio Carlos Jobim's "Luiza," Uhlir's last original "Song for Jane," and the Harry Warren finale standard "I'll String Along with You."

There always seem to be a plethora of piano trio recordings to choose from but few, leave a lasting impression and stand out above the rest. Such is the case with Live at Jazzinec an elite recording from the cohesive musical force Trio WUH, three veteran musicians who combine their writing skills and talents as players in making musical statements hard to ignore.

All About Jazz


English translation coming in 2015

První album z festivalu Jazzinec je na světě!

Po 15 letech trvání trutnovského festivalu Jazzinec vyšlo konečně také album, jež dokumentuje nejen neopakovatelnou atmosféru, ale také kvalitu tohoto jazzového festivalu v náručí Krkonoš. Poslední únorový den loňského roku zde vystoupilo Trio WUH, to jest Skip Wilkins, František Uhlíř a Jaromír Helešic. Byl to nápad organizátora festivalu Tomáše Katschnera, že zvukový mistr Antonín Šturm a jeho tým pořídil záznam tohoto koncertu. Poté ho poskytli samotným aktérům. „Byli jsme překvapeni a zároveň nadšeni technickou a hudební úrovní tohoto záznamu!“ vyjádřil se Uhlíř. „To nás přivedlo na myšlenku vydat toto album.“

Dostalo jednoduchý, ale všeříkající titul „Live at Jazzinec“ a na ploše celkové stopáže 64 minut se Trio WUH představuje opravdu v té nejskvělejší formě. Skip Wilkins, tento nyní v Čechách usazený americký pianista, má ostatně již na svém kontě jedno z nejzdařilejších loňských alb u nás - „Czech Dreams“ (viz. http://jazzport.cz/2013/12/06/skip-wilkins-quartet-aneb-americanovy-ceske-sny/ ). Kontrabasistu Františka Uhlíře a bubeníka Jaromíra Helešice netřeba představovat, patří bezesporu již řadu let k jazzovým instrumentalistům minimálně evropského formátu. Když k tomu přidáte čirou radost, chuť, zápal a patřičné muzikantské sebevědomí všech tří aktérů plus to nejlepší momentální tvůrčí rozpoložení, vyjde vám prostě úžasné jazzové album!

Hned z úvodního Van Heusenova standardu „The Second Time Around“ (napsaného původně pro Binga Crosbyho) na vás začne stříkat životodárná energie, jakou se vyznačuje hra těch nejlepších klasických trií jazzové historie. Uhlíř zde vystřihne první ze svých dechberoucích sól – evidentně byl hned od počátku nejvíce nažhavený. Což potvrzuje v následující, vlastní kompozici „Bossa Cosa“, kde se z latiny vylupují basové erupce, z nichž Uhlíř dokáže vykouzlit obrovské perly a démanty, zatímco zvuk tria houstne čím dál víc a místy je to až krkolomné, takže takovou nadupanou jízdu je vskutku dobrodružstvím poslouchat. Při poslechu Wilkinsovy skladby „Quiet, Please!“ se přistihuji, že nestíhám pojmout celé trio, kolik se tam toho uvnitř hustého hudebního magmatu děje, všichni tři protagonisté v podstatě nepřetržitě sólují. A taky se přiznám, že Uhlířův kontrabas má u mne opět navrch. Jo, a zapomněl jsem k této skladbě napsat, že jde o baladu! Pánové, kam až půjdete v tom svém bezuzdném improvizačním třeštění? Takovou otázku jsem si maně položil a netrpělivě jsem očekával věci příští. Svižná Uhlířova hard-bopovka „You Are Never At Home“ rozpaluje doběla také Wilkinse a představí se i Helešic coby nezničitelně mladistvý bubenický rebelant. Jobimova lyrická pecka „Luiza“ skýtá pro Wilkinse a Uhlíře příležitost k virtuozitě, která však baladičnost nepopírá, spíše svou emotičností umocňuje. Wilkinsova kompozice „Take the Fourth“ dokazuje naplno vskutku kongeniální, až telepatickou souhru tria, přičemž jejich hra zde dosahuje energetického vrcholu. Uhlíř zahraje sólo smyčcem, pianista to na vás hrne bez pardónu, rytmika je svou plastičností až přízračná, všichni hrají s živočišnou chutí. Všechno to vrcholí střídavými sóly celého trojlístku. Následující Uhlířova balada „Song for Jane“ je nádhernou ukázkou především citlivé kontrabasové hry smyčcem a představuje nutné zklidnění po předchozích krkolomnostech. Baladu střídá be-bopovka „Devil May Care“, již napsal v roce 1956 pianista Bob Dorough. Wilkins přebírá jeho výrazný motiv po svém, prolamuje ho, činí ho hutnějším, aby dal posléze vyniknout Uhlířovým vršení, kaskádám, erupcím, prohmatům a posunům. Helešic se tady taky nechává slyšet, jeho sólem skladba vrcholí. Závěrečná „I´ll String Along With You“ představuje emočně i citově mocné uchopení milostné písně Harryho Warrena z roku 1934, po níž však o 65 let později šáhla taková Diane Krall. Trio WUH zde hraje „jakoby nic“, ale vám se z toho až tají dech...

Na mimořádně vydařeném albu se samozřejmě podepsali také Yarda Helešic (mix, mastering), malíř Jiří Votruba, grafik Petr Šabach a fotograf Patrick Marek (grafika), díky Petru Gabrielovi a jeho firmě Rayservice pak mohlo být toto CD vydáno. Album „Live at Jazzinec“ Trio WUH pokřtilo dne 9.března v pražské Redutě (viz.fotoreport Patricka Marka).

Jazzinci


English translation coming in 2015

Až takmer náhoda spôsobila, že český jazzový festival Jazzinec (Trutnov) má na svojom konte prvý oficiálny album s názvom Live at Jazzinec! Postaralo sa oň trio popredných českých jazzmanov, akými Jaromír Helešic – bicie nástroje a František Uhlíř – kontrabas, nesporne sú. A na trio ich dopĺňa americký skladateľ a klavirista Skip Wilkins, ktorý už niekoľko rokov má svoj druhý domov v Prahe. Trio WUH vystupovalo na vlaňajšom ročníku Jazzinca, ale organizátor festivalu Tomáš Katschner dal pokyny zvukovému majstrovi Antonínovi Šturmovi, aby koncert nahral. Výsledok je viac ako dobrý! Na albume a ploche viac ako 64 minút je 9 kompozícií, o ktoré sa autorsky podelili Uhlíř (3), Wilkins (2) a štandardy (4). Celým albumom sa ťahá línia vynikajúcej nálady, skvelých výkonov všetkých troch osobností, nadhľadu a bezstarostnosti. Pohoda tria "nakazí" okamžite aj vás pri počúvaní. Možnože je niekdy lepšie nič na nahrávanie nepripravovať, len stlačiť rec! S majstrami svojich nástrojov to ide vždy ľahko!

Sk.jazz.sk, Slovak Republic


 

 




Skip Wilkins Quartet: Czech Dreams

World-class jazz pianist Skip Wilkins regularly splits his time between Eastern Pennsylvania—where he teaches at Lafayette College in Easton—and Central Europe where he recently spent fifteen months in Prague. Czech Dreams, dedicated to the Czech people, is a result of touring throughout the Czech Republic and Germany and cementing his relationship with friend and Prague-based guitarist Libor Smoldas who is part of this recording. Recorded at Studio Svarov in the Czech Republic, the album offers a selection of eleven sensitive original instrumental and vocal pieces presenting an enticing and appealing musical package of modern jazz.

Along with bassist Tomas "Kastan" Baros and drummer Tomas Hobzek, forming the remaining cast of the core quartet, Wilkins invited touring partner saxophonist Rostislav Fras and Moravian singer Marie Puttnerova who lends warm vocals on the delicate "You Will Find It" and joins the leader on the buoyant "Uvidime" (We Will See). The dream begins to unfold on the medium tempo romp of "Musime" (We Must) where the pianist takes charge displaying his more than appreciable chops on the instrument accompanied well by saxophonist Fras on a superb opening statement. Wilkins' piano solo on the following "Haven't You...?" is not to be missed while the music on "Nikdo Nevi" (Nobody Knows) is fast-paced, energetic and brings guitarist Smoldas as well as drummer Hobzek to the fore with a mighty solos of their own.

Bassist Baros weighs in with a measured solo on the light and beautiful waltz of "Noci v Opera" (Nights at the Opera) propelled by more of Fras's inviting tenor solos in stark contrast to the dark texture of the following "Sasa and the Tale of the Freezy Queen" where the bassist once again proves to be a major part of the rhythm section as he does again on "Vzhuru Dolu" (Up Down) before another Wilkins romp. The music begins to wind down with the brief but gorgeous ballad of "Didn't Say" and closes on the soft title track dotted with light riffs from Smoldas and warm touches from the leader.

Jazz has no boundaries and apparently neither does pianist Skip Wilkins who has made Eastern Europe his second base of operations. Czech Dreams is an impressive sophisticated offering of European-flavored

Edward Blanco, All About Jazz (December 28, 2013)


English translation coming in 2015

České sny rodáka z Massachusetts

Zajímavou novinku připravil pro jazzové publikum americký klavírista a skladatel Skip Wilkins. S českými spoluhráči nahrál album SKIP WILKINS QUARTET - CZECH DREAMS, jehož vydání se ujal Petr Marek a jeho New Port Line. Na interpretaci jedenácti skladeb alba se podílí kvarteto ve složení Skip Wilkins – piano, Libor Šmoldas – kytara, Tomáš Baroš – kontrabas a Tomáš Hobzek – bicí, které ve třech skladbách doplňuje hostující saxofonista Rostislav Fraš. Ženský element zastupuje ve dvou případech mladá zpěvačka Marie Puttnerová, s níž se Skip Wilkins seznámil při svém několikanásobném působení na Letní jazzové dílně Karla Velebného ve Frýdlantu. Díky několika krátkodobým pobytům v České republice a samozřejmě i své píli hovoří Skip docela dobře česky, což předvedl při prezentaci alba v klubu Jazz Dock v neděli 3. listopadu, ale také při volbě názvů skladeb, z nichž šest je v češtině.

Vstup do alba je skutečně velkolepý. Ve skladbě Musíme zazní po úvodní společné minutovce Skipovo strhující sólo, na nějž naváže stejně bravurně Frašův tenor saxofon, aby po něm dostala příležitost kytara s kontrabasem. Ve skladbě Haven´t You…? věnované jednomu úředníkovi české cizinecké policie, dostala prostor Liborova kytara, a v následující Nikdo neví inspirovalo toto často užívané úsloví Skipa k rychlému reji prstů po klávesách a Tomáše Hobzeka k pěknému sólu. Obdobně je možno sledovat další skladby, v nichž Skip dává svým spoluhráčům vedle svého klavíru dostatek příležitostí k sólovým improvizacím. Pokud jde o Marušku Puttnerovou, její zpěv beze slov zaujme především ve skladbě You Will Find It hrané ve volném tempu, v níž chtěl Skip sdělit, co zde našel. Podle jemného a něžného vyznění skladby to asi bylo něco hezkého. Podruhé se Maruščin příjemný hlas ozve ve skladbě Uvidíme, kde se k němu na chvíli připojí se zpěvem i Skip, který pak zahraje krátkou pasáž na nástroj zvaný melodica, což je vlastně klávesová foukací harmonika. Závěrečná Czech Dreams je skutečně snová improvizace, do níž každý z členů kvarteta vkládá svůj osobní příspěvek. V bookletu Skip u této skladby také hovoří o inspiračním zdroji zvaném slivovice.

Je jistě potěšitelné, že takový muzikant a hudební pedagog, jakým Skip Wilkins je, nahrává a vystupuje s našimi mladými jazzmany. Je to jen dalším potvrzením dobré úrovně naší jazzové scény, s níž by ovšem měl jít ruku v ruce i zájem posluchačské veřejnosti.

Ivan Kott, Jonáš (CZ)



English translation coming in 2015

Narozen v Massachussetts, od roku 1995 žije v Pennsylvánii, kde je vůdčí jazzovou osobností, se kterou si zalétávají (či zalétávali) zahrát legendy jako Dave Liebman, Stanley Turrentine, Bobby Watson, Clark Terry a Al Grey, muzikant a pedagog, jenž od roku 2007 často působí ve střední Evropě, včetně Česka – mezi červnem 2011 až srpnem 2012 žil nepřetržitě v Praze a také vyučoval jazzový klavír na brněnské JAMU. To je SKIP WILKINS, který si vybral tři naše muzikanty z mladší jazzové generace, kytaristu Libora Šmoldase, kontrabasistu Tomáše „Kaštana“ Baroše a bubeníka Tomáše Hobzeka, aby s takto vzniklým kvartetem natočil jako lídr své v pořadí dvanácté album. To nese titul „CZECH DREAMS“, vzniklo ve Studiu Svárov, mícháno a mástrováno bylo v USA – ostatně jak už je zvykem v případě nahrávek, produkovaných Petrem Markem pro jeho label New Port Line. CD je opět „vymazleno“ i co se týče výtvarné stránky – svérázné fotografie Alžběty Jungrové jsou opravdu navýsost podařené!

SKIP WILKINS QUARTET podává na ploše bezmála 57 minut opravdu výkon z kategorie snů. A nejen českých. Všech jedenáct Wilkinsových autorských kompozic je však nějakým způsobem spjato s Čechami a především Moravou, a také jsou „Czech people“ dedikovány. Zvuk kvarteta v několika skladbách obohacují hosté Rostislav Fraš s tenorovým a sopránovým saxofonem (s ním již Wilkins – a jeho mezinárodní kvintet – natočil, a to díky Českému rozhlasu, album „Frýdlant Nights“, jež zachycuje jejich vystoupení v srpnu 2009 na Letní jazzové dílně ve Frýdlantě) a nadějná zpěvačka z Moravy Marie Puttnerová.

Album „Czech Dreams“ má navzdory své vzácné vyrovnanosti dva vrcholy, ale k těm se ještě dostanu. V úvodním tracku „Musíme“ slyším Janáčka, obvzláště v klavírním sóle, a nebude to asi náhoda, neboť Wilkins tuto skladbu napsal pro přítele – rodilého Moraváka. Hostující Frašův tenor je také patřičně vřelý. Kytarista Šmoldas svůj part naopak velmi neobvykle staví a šperkuje, stejně tak bubeník Hobzek. Ten ostatně na celém albu hraje kongeniálně geniálně, abych se i já vyjádřil neobvykle a překvapivě, jeho hra je pestrá, a přitom neztrácí tep – bravo! Následující „Haven´t You…?“ (inspirované obligátní zdvořilou otázkou úředníka cizinecké policie) skrývá mistrně vystavěné, až bluesově naléhavé kytarové sólo a neméně znamenité klavírní sólo, jež je určující především pro gradaci skladby. Wilkins je po této stránce excelentním sólistou ve všech jedenácti případech. V expresivní „Nikdo neví“ tvrdí muziku eruptivní basa Kaštana Baroše, Šmoldasova kytara je také vypjatá, ale spíše svým neklidem, jakoby napjatými nervy, Hobzek to pak vše smete svým sólem. Protipólem je křehká balada „You Will Find It“ s gospelovými barvami, éterickým vokálem hostující Marie Puttnerové, spirituálovým klavírem a spirituálním basovým sólem. Následují „Noci v opeře“, věnovány přítelkyni Kristýně, s níž Wilkins chodil do Národního divadla na operní představení. Nad valčíkovým půdorysem se klenou nádherné west-coastové kantilény, ozdobené basovým a sopránsaxofonovým sólem. První vrchol, jak jsem se výše zmínil, představuje kompozice „Saša and the Tale Of the Freezy Queen“, inspirovaná Wilkinsovými přáteli z Lomnice u Tišnova, nadšenými muzikanty. Hobzekova rytmická figura (mimochodem jeho nápad) je prostě od pánaboha, ten s ní (myslím Hobzek) navíc ještě dále pracuje, zhušťuje ji či rozpíná – vzniká tak až fyzické napětí, v němž se obalují avantgardně znějící sóla tenoru a piana. Poté přichází odlehčení v podobě svižné be-bopovky „Vzhůru dolů“ se sólovými vizitkami všech členů kvarteta a pohodovky „Uvidíme“ (inspirace v další české frázi) v rytmu bossa-novy, s osvěžujícím Wilkinsovým sólem na melodiku a vokálem Puttnerové. Hard-bopovka „Proč ne? (Píseň pro Dašu)“ je věnována učitelce češtiny, s Kaštanovým bluesovým úvodem a poté s krátkými sóly všech protagonistů, která se proplétají, a celá ta skladba tudíž uhání jako s větrem o závod. Krátká balada bez improvizace „Didn´t Say“ přináší zklidnění, aby pak album vyvrcholilo v opravdové jazzové osmitisícovce pod titulním názvem „Czech Dreams“, jež je mistrně vystavěná, graduje a voní po slivovici!

Co říci na závěr? Snad jen to, že v krátkém čase vyšly na labelu New Port Line tři jazzové desky, které patří k tomu nejlepšímu, co u nás letos vyšlo – vedle alb Štveráčkova kvarteta a SoulMates mám na mysli právě toto!

Jazzport (CZ)

 

 




Joint review of "After" (original material) and "I Concentrate on You" (standards) in Cadence Magazine!

Below, the writer is referring to these two CDs:

The story of (these two releases), recorded one day apart in the same place, is intriguing. Wilkins planned to record a CD of originals, titled 'After' (the occasion being that his children had gone off to college—what to do 'after'?). And he did—but with enough studio time to spare that the trio could embark on a separate CD of the standard repertoire they enjoyed playing and explored so easily. The trio is beautifully integrated, bass and drums in equitable support of Wilkins’ rippling lines. As a composer, Wilkins has a flair for melodies—'Words I Remember,' 'Waiting for Prague,' and 'Since You Asked' being particularly pretty and introspective. Bassist Lee and drummer Hirshfield evoke rich sounds, creating an ideal trio. The companion CD of standards is inventive but respectful, melodic but never dull. It’s far from cliché-ridden Easy Listening: admire their energetic 'Bye Bye Blackbird' and the two versions of 'Portrait of Jenny.' This trio was new to me, but their work is completely convincing on many levels.

 

After / Skip Wilkins Trio (Import Version)

American pianist, Skip Wilkins, currently living in Prague, Czech Republic, created this New York Trio album. Skip has performed as a talented co-star with such famous musicians as Dave Liebman (sax), Stanley Turrentine (Ts), Clark Terry (Tp), and Conte Candoli (Tp). He is a graduate of The Berklee College of Music in Boston, where he is also a professor. All compositions on the album are original compositions filled with emotional intelligence and a unique Skip Wilkins feel. Due perhaps to the time Skip has spent in both Europe and the U.S., there is a blend of cutting-edge New York jazz and classical jazz elements. “After,” the title song, exhibits innovative phrasing and harmonic technique. ”Don’t Drink Anything Hot,” and “Architect’s Delight” are interesting compositions utilizing dissonance reminiscent of Thelonious Monk. Bassist Scott Lee’s singing solos help to further enhance the sounds of the trio.

(N.B., Skip Wilkins taught at Berklee during the summer of 1988 and continues now as associate professor of music at Lafayette College; on sabbatical for 2011-2012, and living in Prague.)

Special thanks to Larry and Noriko Stockton, who translated this review from the original Japanese.

www.jazzpage.net (Japan)

Skip Wilkins Trio - I Concentrate on You (Dreambox Media ***)
Skip Wilkins - After (Dreambox Media ***)

Pianist Skip Wilkins has assembled two CDs, one of standards (already out) and the other of originals (due out this summer).

The current Lafayette College jazz professor, who is relocating to Europe, says he made After for his grown children who had left home. The intuitive set with drummer Jeff Hirshfield and bassist Scott Lee projects a warm, rich tone and a questing vibe at times. The title track certainly produces righteous heat.

I Concentrate on You fits nicely in the same trio's wheelhouse, although it's also more predictable. The Cole Porter title track is full of pleasant thoughts, while "Who Cares?" swings vigorously. "Softly, As in a Morning Sunrise" presents a caffeinated encounter before a gentle close.

Karl Stark - Philadelphia Inquirer (April 24, 2011)

 





Rostislav Fraš – Skip Wilkins Quintet has a “perfectly mastered repertoire, composed entirely of their own compositions.”

Wilkins is “an inventive composer.”

“If international cooperation worked so well in other spheres, the world would be just beautiful.”

Muzikus.cz (April 28, 2010)

 


The Paint-Peeler melds together elements of traditional, modern, and free jazz in a mélange of creative energy and expression. Wilkins' compositions and arrangements are full of emotion and intellectual fervor, while his improvisations are first-rate and are constantly being enhanced by the rest of the ensemble. The quintet, consisting of Paul Kendall on saxes, Tom Kozic on guitar, Tony Marino on bass, and Gary Rissmiller on drums, moves between '60s avant-garde free-improvisation and '50s style swing in a manner that is both seamless and captivating.

Drawing upon influences such as Keith Jarrett and Bill Evans, Wilkins' improvisations constantly push the band to new levels of creativity. Whether it's the barn-burning title track or the Evans-influenced slow waltz, "December (As I Would Have It)," there is never a moment where Wilkins sounds uncomfortable or at less than his best. Aside from his soloing, Wilkins is also an exemplary accompanist. His ability to move between a modern-acoustic feel ("Standing in the Wind") and an electric-fusion feel à la Joe Zawinul ("Trappers in the Family") helps to push the other band members to new levels of creativity in their solos.

Matthew Warnock, All About Jazz (May 03, 2009)

 

Philadelphia pianist Skip Wilkins' writing covers a lot of ground but he has a particularly nice touch both composing and playing ballads like 'Glow' and 'December.' His more uptempo work is loud and aggressive. 'Swiftly' is a fast walking tune that dissolves into tenor bleats and abstract bowed bass while 'The Paint-Peeler' is a fast piece that lets saxophonist Paul Kendall and guitarist Tom Kozic chase each other around. 'Standing In The Wind' is built out of Monkish chords and gives Kendall a chance to really honk, 'Trappers In The Family' is a lurching Jazz-rock stomp fronted by baritone sax, electric keyboards, and twangy rock guitar, and 'Bring The Sun' closes things out with a fast, nimble samba. Wilkins and his band have put together an enjoyable and eclectic set.

Cadence (Spring 2009)

 


O's Notes: This solo recording was Skip's way of introducing himself to the community at Lafayette College when he joined the faculty during 2000. It's a strong performance including several different genres both originals and standards. It serves well as entertainment either in the background or for serious listening. Wilkins traverses the keys softly at times and then with fervor but always extracting good vibrations. The recording lay dormant for years as his collaborative efforts with his quintet yielded two albums. When Skip decided to record a solo CD, he realized he already had a gem and we're glad he looked back! This one is very good. 4/4

O's Place Jazz Newsletter (October 29, 2007)

 

"...Wilkins serves up an enjoyable set of Jazz standards leavened by a few originals...This recording is from a solo piano concert given in Pennsylvania in 2000, a fact that I quite forgot until the applause at the end of the "Peau Douce" reminded me. It's easy to forget as the recording sounds good and the piano sounds first-rate. Wilkins himself is also first-rate for although the idiom is pretty much as conservative as the titles would suggest, he steers largely clear of outright cliché...you can certainly hear echoes of Bill Evans, Monk, Bud Powell, the Blues (even during Chopin's "Waltz") and perhaps some Ramsey Lewis inflected funk ("Hackensack"), but his lyrical voice sounds convincingly personal despite the outside influences in play. Wilkins possesses a deft technique though he is not a particularly showy pianist - as with most good musicians, technique is at the service of the music and not the other way around. Harmonically, he is right out of the Evans-Peterson bag and the lines don't stray far from the chord but there is a sense of lyrical conviction that serves him well enough even within the confines of traditional Jazz harmony. I particularly enjoyed his interpretation of Carmichael's beautiful "Skylark" with its hints of Stride piano spiced with some subtle reharmonization. Of the originals, "Take the Fourth" is probably the best...the three examples of his writing work well within the context of the set as a whole...I enjoyed this CD and I can recommend it to those who love these tunes."

Cadence Magazine

 


Pianist Skip Wilkins continues his easy-to-take ways on this follow-up to last year's more up-tempo Volume I. Wilkins, who teaches at Lafayette College in Easton, doesn't wax professorial on this set of nine originals. The session sounds like West Coast cool but with updated, East Coast suavity.  The quintet—tenor saxophonist Paul Kendall, guitarist Tom Kozic, bassist Tony Marino and drummer Gary Rissmiller—regularly creates a likable languor. The tunes evolve—the fast-moving "Need Some Ice" hits a soulful interlude courtesy of Kendall, while "Quiet, Please," written for a local politician whom Wilkins found irritating, comes off as chamomile mellow.  Nice trick if you can do it. "Fortuitous Fifteen" is more angular and bopish yet still melodic, while
"Hold Me" is all liquid ballad.

Philadelphia Inquirer (September 16, 2007)

 

Pianist Skip Wilkins gathers some musically sympathetic colleagues in Easton, Pennsylvania, for the second part of a marathon session.  Wilkins's pieces are well thought out, with plenty of musical mile-markers in the solo sections to tie in with the various head structures...the musical quality is always there.

The CD begins with a Silver-Blakey influenced mid-tempo quasi-shuffle, "For Ten Percent," a tune with some definite soul.  Paul Kendall's straight-ahead tenor solo reminds a little of Frank Foster or Benny Golson in its overall approach. Guitarist Tom Kozic comes through with a burnished tone like [Kenny] Burrell and he is no slouch.  The rhythm section cooks along, drummer Rissmiller sounds tasty.  Skip takes a solo next in an impeccable way according to the style at hand.  An engaging tune.

A pretty ballad in three follows, called "Used to Be." Wilkins takes a solo which gives you his lyrical-melodic sincerity and Kendall's tenor sounds a bit like Shorter in a wistful mood.  He builds the solo as the rhythm section takes on a kind of 1962 Miles [Davis] feel...

A [Wayne] Shorter ESP period-like "Betrayal" follows, with a rather wispy tenor motif and piano response.  Then follows an almost polite post-[Bill] Evans "Hold Me" with quiet chords on piano with quiet guitar commentary.  The tenor does a Shorteresque cantabile and it's all quite sensitive...well-wrought, quite pleasant...the song craft is in abundant evidence...the rhythm section strongly anchors the date and it's all solid...

Cadence Magazine, August 2007

 


Pianist Skip Wilkins goes from soulful, gut-bucket mode to rich ballads to angular modern jazz on this tasteful set of original tunes. The opening "It Was Bound to Happen" is the session's earthiest cut, with tenor saxophonist Paul Kendall keening and guitarist Tom Kozic in full wail over the two-chord vamp that's included here. Wilkins, who teaches music at Lafayette College in Easton, shows a yen for bop structure on the horn-heavy "Take the Fourth." His solo on "Stephanie's Song" is silky supper-club stuff, while "No Parking" tends toward the fast-twitch neurotic before it seques into a softer groove. The session with bassist Tony Marino and drummer Gary Rissmiller is understated and generally full of pleasant smoky moments.

Karl Stark - Philadelphia Inquirer (Nov 12, 2006)

 

Pianist/composer/bandleader Skip Wilkins is a talented musician working out of Eastern Pennsylvania, where he teaches at the Williams Center for the Arts [Lafayette College] in Easton in addition to making gigs in Philadelphia, the Poconos and New York City. He's recorded several albums with flutist Jill Allen and has compiled, over the years, an impressive catalog of original compositions, now available on Volume I, soon to be followed by a companion volume.

Culled from three separate concerts given at his college, the CD documents the interworkings of a cohesive band playing over well-conceived material. Consisting of Wilkins (piano), Paul Kendall (tenor saxophone), Tom Kozic (guitar), Tony Marino (bass) and Gary Rissmiller (drums), the quintet makes music marked by an informality and intimacy gained only through close association and mutual respect. Wilkins has penned some very fine tunes here, including: "It Was Bound to Happen" (a two-beat funker with an expansive and lyrical phrase structure), "Stephanie's Song" (a beautiful ballad in 3/4) and "Unforgotten" (a pensive, exploratory ballad). There are some brisk uptempo numbers too -- Wilkins likes to call them "rumbles" -- over which the group members acquit themselves to forceful effect, as on "No Parking," when guitarist Kozic comes crashing out of the starting gate, only to catch a mellow stride at the solo's mid-stretch.

The band (with a pinch-hitter on bass) gave New Yorkers a chance to sample their wares at a mid-December mid-afternoon concert at BigAppleJazz/EZ's Woodshed, a newish Harlem one-stop bop-shop created by Gordon Polatnick. The camaraderie and compatibility suggested by the recording was immediately apparent on the bandstand as Wilkins and friends treated listeners to selections from the CD as well as some from the yet-to-be-released Vol. II, setting these compositional gems in an aesthetically apposite musical jewel box.

Tom Greenland - All About Jazz (Jan 7, 2007)

 

For his third disc as a leader, it's easy to suggest Wilkins has come of age as a pianist and composer. Wilkins, who lives in Macungie and teaches jazz at Lafayette College, has been doing this for a while, so the "age" bit isn't meant to impugn his earlier work, two fine CDs featuring flutist Jill Allen in (mostly) quartet settings. These laid some important groundwork for what is easily Wilkins' most impressive music, Vol. 1 ("Vol 2" is already recorded and due in the spring). He wrote and arranged all the tunes. More to the point, his quintet -- bassist Tony Marino, guitarist Tom Kozic, drummer Gary Rissmiller and tenor saxophonist Paul Kendall -- have played these pieces enough to feel comfortable with them, and, even on a first listen, that shows. This isn't head-solo-head jazz, and Wilkins' writing demands a lot from the players, but the listening isn't a challenge at all, which speaks volumes about the players' talents. Still, Wilkins' music has an edge; he's searching for, and more often than not finding, his own voice, which is really what jazz is all about. "Vol. 2" has a high standard to meet.

Tim Blangger - The Morning Call (Nov 18, 2006)

 

O's Notes: Skip plays piano and puts the heart and soul into each of the songs without dominating the stage. The warmth of Paul Kendall's sax brings romance to "Stephanie's Song", one of the nine Wilkins compositions. Tom Kozic (g) comes out blazing on "No Parking" and Tony Marino adds a bass solo on "Would Aldous Huxley...?" a swinger with Paul again playing a strong role. Bassist Tony Marino and Gary Rissmiller do more than anchor the beats. They provide accents and punch from the lower registers that give the music character. Collectively this is a fine set and we look forward to Volume II.

D. Oscar Groomes - O's Place Jazz Newsletter (Dec 16, 2006)


 

"A fun, frolicsome spirit pervades their swinging instrumentals. This album is extremely colorful, thanks to varied moods and Wilkins' variegated playing. "

Tom Schulte - Detroit Free Press

 

Bostonian Skip Wilkins wrote most of the tunes on Petty Theft, serving notice that he’s on his way to becoming an important jazz composer. His playing is hard-driving and both melodic and adventurous.

Mike Gladstone - 52nd Street Jazz (on-line magazine)

 

Usually jazz is either sweet or edgy, but seldom both. Wilkins, Allen and company have managed to achieve both moods, which is itself an achievement….Wilkins is an inventive, subtle pianist.

Tim Blangger - The Morning Call (Allentown, PA)

 

Skip (Wilkins) has some of the best hands/fingers you've ever heard on a keyboard. What my ears keep coming back to (even though the flute stands out) is Wilkins' keyboards! It's not just the mix, it's the CHOPS!

Dick Metcalf - Improvijazzation

 

Pianist Skip Wilkins and flutist Jill Allen’s Petty Theft is so cool, it’s bound to steal you away from the coldest winter blues. The Wilkins & Allen Quartet is joined by saxophonist David Liebman for this bright, sassy album of lyrical jazz that is a credit to their mentors, Herbie Hancock and Stan Getz.

Celia Sharpe - The Review

 

“…a musical picture of stunning beauty.”

Justin Arawjo - Pocono Record


 

  

“The CD is loaded with hard-charging riffs—a welcome mixture of energy and dexterity—honed with color, lyricism and originality.”

Curt Yeske - Trenton Times

 

“Wilkins and Allen manage to leave serious determination with a gentle and humorous treatment of both standards and originals, lending a playful insouciance to the album.”

Pete Pappalardo - Pocono Record

 

"Two Much Fun blends clean, classical chops with a swinging sensibility. Wilkins gives a colorful base for Allen, whose muscular pyrotechnics rise well above liftoff."

Karl Stark - Philadelphia Inquirer

 

“Whether with his own compositions, such as the blue-suede moodiness of ‘Numb,’ or standards such as ‘Smile,’ Wilkins’ playing is lyrical. There is a stateliness to his playing that is subtle without seeming mannered or austere."

Todd Dawson - Easton Express-Times

 

"To open their debut recording, “Other Things You Are” offers attractive contrapuntal harmonic variations of Jerome Kern’s “All the Things You Are” to set the tone for an entertaining series of intimate piano/flute duos—music that exhibits a spirit of adventure."

David Lewis - Cadence

 

"Two Much Fun is just that. Both of you keep writing those great tunes."

Dave Brubeck

  
 
 
design+code = Scientists of Media