Pianist and composer Skip Wilkins, a native of Eastern Massachusetts, has a Bachelor’s degree from Holy Cross College and Master of Music degree from the University of Northern Colorado. He has worked with jazz artists like saxophonists John LaPorta, Plas Johnson, David Liebman and Stanley Turrentine, vocalist Mark Murphy, trumpeter Conti Condoli, bassist Milt Hilton and drummer Peter Erskine. He currently teaches at Lafayette College and has taught at the Berklee College of Music. This is Wilkins’ third release on the Philadelphia based independent jazz Dreambox Media label.
Solo is a live solo piano concert given at Lafayette College in 2000 upon Wilkins’ arrival on campus as a full-time teaching faculty member and is full of rubato-laden Keith Jarrett-esque performances. An example is Thelonious Monk’s "Hackensack," here given the full off-kilter rhythmic and harmonic treatment so closely associated with Jarrett before the onset of his Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Through the cascading rhythmic innuendos and starts and stops, however, we discover an artist who has chops and tasteful technical abilities.
Most of the work on this disc, however, tends toward the dreamy romantic more associated with Jarrett’s current solo piano work. On pieces such as Miles Davis’ "Nardis" and a jazz version of Chopin’s "Waltz In A-flat," the constant rubato creates, at times, rambling worlds of soothing sounds. The artistry is top-notch, but the constant flow and ebb of the time concept gets in the way of presenting an artist who has a unique vision. Instead we hear an artist who sounds as if he would be more at home in a piano bar than on a concert stage presenting an evening of jazz.
The choice of material, on the other hand, plays to Wilkins’ strength; oft-overlooked material from famous jazz composers as well as some choice original material. Of Wilkins’ own material "Petty Theft" and "It Was Bound To Happen" are two stellar compositions. The disc ending "Take Me Out To The Ballgame" is a delight and perfectly rounds out the evening’s performance. Wilkins’ quintet recordings would be a better place to start for those wishing to check him out.