GET TO KNOW JACK! - JACK WILKINS THAT IS
Nice interview by Michael Ducey.(Thanks Michael)
Jack Wilkins is well known as a consummate guitarist, simply because he can play with anyone! And Jack has certainly challenged himself by working with many of the finest talents in the jazz world.
When you look at Jack Wilkins portfolio, not only can you appreciate the talent that sought him out, but also the diversity of his collaborations. These gifted musicians include tenor saxophone player Stanley Turrentine, who played jazz as well as R&B. There was Jimmy Heath, often called “Little Bird”, because he was strongly influenced by Charlie Parker. A player that shared the stage with Mr. Wilkins is Eddie Gomez, who played with Dizzy Gillespie and had a mutual Latin influence. If that’s not enough to impress you, then let’s note his collaborations with Chet Baker and Buddy Rich.
Jack Wilkins has also been appreciated for his ability to compliment the vocal styles of Morgana King, Sarah Vaughn, Sammy Davis Jr., Tony Bennett, Manhattan Transfer, Cassandra Wilson, Chris Conner and the list goes on.
Jack Wilkins does not have to be satisfied with just having backed other artists, because he had the ears of guitar lovers everywhere standing straight up when he released his album “Windows” in 1973. He’s been praised in Guitar Player, Just Jazz Guitar and Downbeat magazines, as well as being a highlight of a number of J.V.C. festival tributes.
Brooklyn born Jack Wilkins came from a home that appreciated music, where his mother sang and played the piano and his step-father played both sax and trumpet.
Jack recently discovered that his real father, Jack Rivers Lewis was a really successful West Coast guitar player and singer. Jack Rivers Lewis was well known in the Tacoma and Seattle areas as a Western Swing player that also shared a jazz feel and was influenced by jazz guitarists Django Reinhardt, Charlie Christian and his favorite George Barnes.
The young Jack Wilkins started out playing the Rock and Roll of the day, such as Dwayne Eddy and Chuck Berry.
The one guitarist that really caught Jack’s ear and helped mold his chordal style, was Johnny Smith.
A local teacher named Joe Monte helped Jack, as did Artie Shaw’s guitarist Sid Margolis. Feeling the need to grow as a musician, Jack spent time with John Mehegan, who was well respected as a jazz pianist and lecturer that was the head of the New York Metropolitan Music School and later held posts in both Julliard and Yale.
Some of Jack’s rhythmic development can be attributed to the fact that he spent several years apart from his guitar and being drawn to piano, vibes and percussion.
I asked Jack, who his favorite guitarists were and after Johnny Smith, he said that the list would have to include Barney Kessel, Django Reinhardt, Julian Bream, Raphael Rabello, Luiz Bonfa, Baden Powell, and Tal Farlow. But, there would be room on his list for more.
Jazz has been a big part of Jack’s life, but he also has a love for Classical and Brazilian.
No doubt, every musician has some musicians that they wish they could have performed with and Jack said that the first two that came to mind would be Oscar Peterson and Freddie Hubbard.
There are many advanced students that attend The New School, The Manhattan School of Music, NYU and LIU, where Wilkins conducts seminars. Never having a pat way of teaching, Jack listens and helps his students work on whatever will bring them to the next level of professionalism.
The advice Jack Wilkins gives to all is threefold. Find a good teacher, learn to read music and listen, listen, listen.
Maybe now you can say you know Jack!
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Interview- Jack Wilkins by Michael Ducey