Pianist/composer/bandleader Skip Wilkins is a talented musician working out of Eastern Pennsylvania, where he teaches at the Williams Center of the Arts 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 Quintet, Vol. 1, soon to be followed by a companion volume.
Culled from three separate concerts given at his college, this recording documents the interworkings of a cohesive band playing over well-conceived material. Consisting of Wilkins, tenorist Paul Kendall, guitarist Tom Kozic, bassist Tony Marino and drummer Gary Rissmiller, 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 up-tempo numbers, tooWilson likes to call them "rumbles over which the group members acquit themselves to forceful effect, as on "No Parking, when Kozic's guitar 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 its wares at a mid-December mid-afternoon concert at BigAppleJazz/EZ's Woodshed, a newish Harlem one-stop bop-shop created and curated by Gordon Polatnick. The camaraderie and compatibility suggested by the recording was immediately apparent on the bandstand. Wilkins and friends treated listeners to selections from the recording, as well as some from the yet-to-be-released Vol. II, setting these compositional gems in an aesthetically apposite musical jewel box.
It Was Bound to Happen; Stephanie's Song; No Parking; Would Aldous Huxley...?; The Hand-Off; Unforgotten; One Last Look; Longing; Take the Fourth.
Skip Wilkins: piano; Paul Kendall: tenor saxophone; Tom Kozic: guitars; Tony Marino: bass; Gary Rissmiller: drums.