Vol. II: "For Ten Percent" / "Used To Be" / "Agitated" / "Need Some Ice" / "Quiet, Please!" / "Not Perfect" / "Betrayal" / "Fortuitous Fifteen" / "Hold Me"
"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."
"Pianist Skip Wilkins has assembled two CDs, one of standards and the other of originals...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."
- Philadelphia Inquirer
"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, Stanley Turrentine, Clark Terry and Conte Candoli...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."
- www.jazzpage.net (Japan)
"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.
Not to be outdone, the other members of the quintet are at the top of their game on every tune. Rissmiller's open drum solo on the opening track, 'The Paint-Peeler,' contains a high-level of energy and musicality that is indicative of his playing on the rest of the album. As well, Kendall's soprano solo on 'Bring the Sun' is full of hard-swinging melodic lines and burning bebop vocabulary, both of which make it one of the highlights of the album. Guitarist Kozic's versatility comes through on many of his improvised solos and melody sections. His use of distortion and other guitar effects never sounds forced or out of place, as is sometimes the case, and his ability to build a solo helps provide some of the albums most climactic moments.
The Paint-Peeler is a highly energetic recording that brings together many different genres of jazz - from bop to funk to free to modern - into a cohesive work that is both expressive and entertaining. Aside from the diversity during the improvised sections, the wide range of compositions helps keep the album moving forward, while giving it a sense of unity at the same time. Though this is not a traditional jazz quintet CD, it is both intellectually stimulating and accessible, while still remaining true to the artists' intent."
- All About Jazz.com
"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."
"For his third quintet recording, Macungie-based pianist Skip Wilkins draws inspiration from immediate surroundings.
A professor at Lafayette College, Wilkins wrote all the pieces, thinking specifically of his long-standing musicians, saxophonist Paul Kendall, bassist Tony Marino, guitarist Tom Kozic and, especially, drummer Gary Rissmiller, who toured the Czech Republic this summer with Wilkins.
Most of the inspirational sources are close to home, too. A gig at a place Wilkins diplomatically refers to only as a 'well-known jazz club' inspired the disc's opening, post-bop title piece...
The ballad, 'Who's Laughing (A Father's Lament)' grew from Wilkins' experience seeing his daughter Emily leave for college.
The Monkish 'Standing in The Wind' is a dedicated to his son, Daniel, a saxophonist. There were also nods to Wilkins' chiropractor Rob Swift ('Swiftly') and a colleague and collaborator Liz Drake, the former Emmaus High School principal, who inspired the album's closer, 'Bring The Sun.' This is quality, top-shelf stuff, all recorded on the stage of Lafayette's Williams Center for the Arts..."
- (Allentown) Morning Call
"...a strong performance including several different genres both originals and standards...Wilkins traverses the keys softly at times and then with fervor but always extracting good vibrations...a gem...This one is very good."
- O's Place Jazz Newsletter
"...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."
"Quintet Volume II contains nine original tunes by the leader, some terrific, all interesting. What’s more, this is definitely a group effort...these fellows have played together for awhile, and its straight-ahead, cohesive sound shows it.
...The style is solid straight-ahead, many numbers on the contemplative side.
...Most tracks are seven to ten minutes long. Democratically, each musician gets equal solo time, ample opportunity to stretch out. The highly-rated Rissmiller particularly shines throughout, knitting the group together, embellishing each tune with his tasty touches on drums.
Some stand outs--'Used to Me' features Kozik’s relaxed guitar and Marino’s soft bass. On 'Not Perfect,' Wilkins' jaunty piano introduces the tune, and Kendall’s soft sax effectively builds to a strong climax, blending with piano and guitar for a delicate, pensive finish.
Wilkins shows Bill Evans’ influence, stretching out for his strongest improvising in 'Fortuitous Fifteen,' a guitar-piano collaboration. 'Hold Me,' Wilkins' remembrance of 9/11, starts starkly, making way for Kendall’s haunting sax solo. The piano provides a moving coda, concluding a very fine album."
"Pianist Skip Wilkins continues his easy-to-take ways on this follow-up to last year's Volume I.
Wilkins...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...regularly creates a likable languor.
The tunes evolve - the fast-moving 'Needs Some Ice' hits a soulful interlude courtesy of (Tom Kozic's) guitar, while 'Quiet, Please,' written for a local politician whom Wilkins found irritating, comes off as chamomile mellow. Neat trick...
'Fortuitous Fifteen' is more angular and boppish yet still melodic, while 'Hold Me' is all liquid ballad."
- Philadelphia Inquirer
"Pianist Skip Wilkins gathers some musically sympathetic colleagues in Easton, Pennsylvania, for the second part of a marathon session. Wilkins' 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 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 1965 Miles feel...
A Shorter ESP period-like 'Betrayal' follows, with a rather nice wispy tenor motif and piano response. Then follows an almost polite post-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..."
"Culled from three separate concerts given at his college, the CD documents the interworkings of a cohesive band playing over well-conceived material...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 camaraderie and compatibility (is) immediately apparent..."
- All About Jazz (New York)
"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...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 segues into a softer groove.
...full of pleasant, smoky moments."
- Philadelphia Inquirer
"Skip Wilkins’ 'Longing' involves a string of solos from his compatriots culminating in his own ride on piano. Clearly the tone here is optimistic that this sense of longing will be resolved happily. Wilkins’ session is a solid mainstream jam on all original material...the underlying structures clearly keep the instrumentalists focused as they maneuver through the choruses...good for a change of pace from more standard material...Wilkins covers a range of styles. Just in the first three tracks he covers soul-Jazz on the opener, a wistful Jazz waltz, and a hard-charging modal tune. Everyone acquits himself well with bassist Tony Marino, a regular in Dave Liebman’s combo, stepping up with some of the strongest solos."
"For his third disc as a leader, it's easy to suggest Wilkins has come of age as a pianist and composer...easily Wilkins' most impressive music...He wrote and arranged all the tunes. More to the point, his quintet...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.
(One of the top five jazz releases for 2006)"
- Allentown Morning Call
"Skip Wilkins---serving notice that he's on his way to becoming an important jazz composer."
- 52nd Street Jazz
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