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Skip Wilkins Quartet: Czech Dreams

Edward Blanco By

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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 modern jazz designed to reach across the ocean with its worldly appeal, a dream pianist Wilkins may certainly see come to fruition.

Track Listing: Musime; Haven't You...?; Nikdo Nevi; You Will Find It; Noci v Opere; Sasa and the Tale of the Freezy Queen; Vzhuru; Uvidime; Proc ne?; Didn't Say; Czech Dreams.

Personnel: Skip Wilkins: piano; Libor Smoldas: guitar; Tomas "Kastan" Baros: bass; Tomas Hobzek: drums; Rostislav Fras: tenor saxophone (1, 6),soprano saxophone (5); Marie Puttnerova: vocals (4, 8).

Title: Czech Dreams | Year Released: 2013 | Record Label: New Port Line

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