Album: Czech Wishes
Street Date: March 31, 2019
Label: New Port Line Records 

Inspired by Wilkins’ ten years of traveling, performing and teaching throughout the Czech Republic, Czech Wishesdetails the love story between an artist and the many wonderful people and experiences he has encountered throughout his years traveling through the enchanting villages and rolling countryside of the Czech Republic.  The album features Skip with his son Daniel Wilkins, a saxophonist with whom he frequently records, and three stellar Czech musicians in the vanguard of the jazz scene in Prague, including trumpeter Miroslav Hloucal, bassist Tomáš Baroš and drummer Marek Urbánek.  All pieces were composed by Skip, and recorded in Studio Svárov near Prague.

Skip and Daniel Wilkins have been collaborating musically since 2012 with the release of Father and Son.  During this time, Manhattan School of Music graduate Daniel has turned into a formidable bandleader and sideman in his own right, touring extensively throughout Europe and the United States.  The father and son duo have headlined festivals throughout Europe, performing original material penned by each of them. “Don’t Forget Me,” track six on Czech Wishes, gives the audience the opportunity to hear the two perform as a duo.  Regarding this recording, Skip remarks “This one stays in the family. It must.  My father has Alzheimer’s. The composition is thus inscribed: For my father, who will forget, and for my mother, who will remember, a lament of Alzheimer’s disease.”

A full-time professor at Lafayette College in Easton, Pennsylvania, the theme of education runs throughout Skip’s newest album.  The first track, “Teacher,” is inspired by Skip’s Czech language teacher Dáša, Skip’s year-round connection to the region that he has grown to love.  The piece is dedicated to Dáša and “to all teachers who inspire their students to imagine much more.” The track offers a beautifully dynamic start to the album, beginning the album with a tender melody played by Daniel and accompanied by his father.  As the remaining trio of Czech instrumentalists enters the piece, it builds into a driving, hard-bop influenced melody section and then moves onto some dazzling solos by Miroslav and Skip.

On the album’s fourth track, “The Box-Checkers,” Skip playfully pokes fun at bureaucracy in contemporary American life, one which is “filled with incessant box-checking, arcane rules, labyrinthine procedures, and a kind of often unexamined group-think which drives me mad.” The final track on the album, “Wise One” is dedicated to a fellow musician and educator whose wisdom the artist finds unparalleled.  This bright tempo swing tune, which closes off the album, exemplifies the rhythm section’s stellar comping, and the stunning intonation and rhythmic precision of the horn section.  

Through compositions that detail Skip’s love for the Czech region, we get a very human story about an artist with an insatiable wanderlust, and deeply personal journeys embarked on with family and friends.

 

GEORGE HARRIS
JAZZ WEEKLY
"Pianist and composer Skip Wilkins mixes rich Eastern European themes with modern swing as he features tenor saxist Daniel Wilkins in a bopping band with Miroslav Hioucal/tp-fh, Tomas Baros/b and Marek Urbanek/dr." Read the full review here.

DEE DEE MCNEIL
MUSICAL MEMOIRS
"This is an album full of bright, harmonic horn lines, fresh compositions and inspiring arrangements. All the musicians are skillful and their repertoire covers hard bop, blues, Ballads, and a blend of American and Czech jazz that captivates and entertains." Read the full review here.