Skip & Dan Wilkins Quartet: In The Stars

Pianist Skip Wilkins, resident at the longest-running US jazz club, makes straightahead jazz from lesser known songs by famous composers


For the past decade pianist Skip Wilkins has lived upstairs at the Deer Head Inn, the longest-running jazz club in the United States. It’s in Delaware Water Gap, Pennsylvania. Over the years he’s performed with top artists such as Clark Terry, Stanley Turrentine, Conte Candoli, Mark Murphy, David Liebman, Peter Erskine and Phil Woods amongst many others.

In The Stars is Wilkins’ 15th album as leader or co-leader. It’s dedicated to the late Phil Woods, a friend and musician with whom Wilkins played when a member of the Festival Orchestra. Wilkins is joined here by his son Dan on tenor sax and his longstanding rhythm section of Tony Marino on bass and Bill Goodwin on drums.

The album comprises nine numbers by familiar composers chosen by Wilkins because they meet the criteria of not being covered much these days. Unearthing seldom performed music by classic composers has apparently been a lifetime pursuit and the album features such songs from the likes of Hoagy Carmichael, Kurt Weill, Ruth Lowe, Blossom Dearie, Antônio Carlos Jobim, Jerome Kern and George Gershwin.

In The Stars was set to be issued in 2020 but owing to the pandemic lockdown Wilkins decided to delay release until live music could be celebrated again. The content is unpretentious, straightahead jazz and you can sense the individual members of the quartet really enjoy playing together. It’s a swinging set with nicely contrasted tempos and the delivery is faultless. One or two numbers might lack a bit of zip and it’s maybe why they aren’t played often these days but that’s really a minor quibble. I think if I got to the Deer Head one night and heard this band playing live there it would be a great evening.

I Walk With Music; Lost In The Stars; I’ll Never Smile Again; Sweet Georgie Fame; Brother, Can You Spare A Dime?; Brigas Nunca Mais; I’m Making Believe; I Was So Young; Why Do I Love You? (51.23)
Skip Wilkins (p); Dan Wilkins (ts); Tony Marino (b); Bill Goodwin (d). New Jersey, 18 December 2017 & 27 July 2021.
Deer Head Records 012