World-class jazz pianist Skip Wilkins regularly splits his time between Eastern Pennsylvaniawhere he teaches at Lafayette College in Eastonand 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).
I was first exposed to jazz circa 1973, when I met a fellow who ran Kappy's Record Store over near 10th Ave., on 42nd St. in NYC. We really clicked and when I told him I played piano and went to Music & Art HS, and had just started at City College of NY as a music major, he asked if I liked jazz...I said yes but I didn't know much about it, but that I did have sheet music for many popular 1920's through 1940's tunes by noted composers (Porter; Gershwins; Irving Berlin; Rodgers & Hammerstein/Hart; Jerome Kern; Lerner & Loewe; etc.) that my mother had sung beautifully starting in the 1940's including tons of famous show tunes, and I played many of those songs already
I was first exposed to jazz circa 1973, when I met a fellow who ran Kappy's Record Store over near 10th Ave., on 42nd St. in NYC. We really clicked and when I told him I played piano and went to Music & Art HS, and had just started at City College of NY as a music major, he asked if I liked jazz...I said yes but I didn't know much about it, but that I did have sheet music for many popular 1920's through 1940's tunes by noted composers (Porter; Gershwins; Irving Berlin; Rodgers & Hammerstein/Hart; Jerome Kern; Lerner & Loewe; etc.) that my mother had sung beautifully starting in the 1940's including tons of famous show tunes, and I played many of those songs already. SOOOO... he started me off LP's by Oscar Peterson, Art Tatum, Bud Powell, Errol Garner, Bill Evans, Monty Alexander, Charlie Byrd, and Dave Brubeck... does it get any better than that? ...No, it doesn't. I was hooked!!
I met and had a master class with the late music giant John Lewis, leader of the Modern Jazz Quartet! This was at CCNY in 1977. I was blessed! It was an incredible class... how could it have been anything else?!?!
The first jazz record I bought was...I bought numerous records from my friend at the record store, as mentioned above. He introduced me to nothing but music giants/legends! I think The Dave Brubeck Quartet, Greatest Hits, was actually the first one.
My advice to new listeners... study first--understand the rudiments--solfeggio, keys, scales, and basic chords. Read a book or take a class that includes the study of chord progressions, especially in jazz. It should ideally be a piano class so you can play multiple notes together. Have a good EAR or else it's not really worth it in my view...to become a musician, a good EAR for music is about as fundamental as breathing! Learn to read chord charts--i.e., lead sheets - wherein you play various voicings of the chords--major, minor, dominant 7th (alterations of these, you can learn over time - the basic chords are most important for starters), plus the melody, on the piano or keyboard. If you have to read the exact notes, then it's not the same as actually internalizing it & getting it all into your head. If you can do this, I think you're ready not only for listening to jazz, but understanding many concepts of it! Of course...anyone can listen to jazz... but I think it's so good to also have a grasp of it.