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Petty Theft by Wilkens & Allen Quartet

Their promotional piece calls Wilkins and Allen's music with a sweet edge. Indeed, that is a fairly apt description. The music is jaunty, sparkling and, yes, even sweet. At times, it is a trifle with whipped cream and custard inside. A lot of sweetness. Not doubt it is the delicate and gentle flute playing by Jill Allen. To offset the sweetness of the airy flute, pianist Skip Allen provides a hard-nosed Bop sensibility. But sometimes even that is not enough.

On the two pieces that saxophonist Dave Liebman plays, he gives the music more depth, more spice, more bite, more contrast. This is noticeable on the opening piece, "Skip and Me," and extended on "Hovering," perhaps the best tune on this CD. Liebman and Wilkins give "Hovering" a quality that is sweet and edgy, moody and bright.

On the rest of the tracks, Wilkens and Allen try to mix up the line-up. The rhythm section of bassist Tony Marino and drummer Tom Whaley are featured prominently on the bouncing "Sunlit Samba." On the title track, Jill Allen switches to electric bass. There is a wonderful rapport between Allen and Wilkins that is warm and congenial.

"Petty Theft" is uniformly beautiful, almost blissful. It is almost a perfect smile. This could drive a New Yorker nuts. This poses an interesting question: does music have to be slightly neurotic or off-kilter to make it more interesting? Might it be better to have more edge and less sweetness? Need caffeine?

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Wilkens & Allen Quartet
  • CD Title: Petty Theft
  • Year Released: 2001
  • Record Label: Cathexis
  • Musicians: Jill Allen (flute, six-string electric bass), Skip Wilkins (piano), Tony Marino (bass), Tom Whaley (drums), David Liebman (tenor and soprano saxophone)
  • Rating: Five Stars
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