Primary Instrument: Piano
Skip Wilkins was born and raised in eastern Massachusetts. He grew up in a musical home and began listening to jazz at a very early age. His father played drums locally, so Skip was able to interact with professional musicians as a small child. He first found his way to the stage in kindergarten and has not left the stage since. In many ways his earliest experiences have proved the most enduring. He learned to love singing and listening to subtle harmonies before entering school, taking particular delight in the Great American songbook repertoire of such composers as Richard Rodgers, George Gershwin and others of the first half of the twentieth century. Also drawn to syncopated rhythms and polyrhythms of jazz recordings that he heard at home, it is readily apparent that the seeds of his future style were already planted in pre-school. Many years later, a seasoned professional pianist, Skip is noted for his lyricism, fascination with harmonic color, boundless rhythmic energy, and interest in exploring songs from the Great American Songbook.
Skip has been fortunate to play with luminaries and un-sung local players wherever he has lived. As he was coming up in Boston, he worked with drummers Joe Hunt and Bob Moses and with saxophonists Jimmy Mosher and John LaPorta. In Denver, where he established his style, Skip was a well-known figure regionally, and often performed with the marquee players when they visited the area. These included saxophonist Plas Johnson, vocalists Mark Murphy and Darmon Meader, trumpeter Conte Candoli, bassist Milt Hinton, and drummer Peter Erskine. He also made his first recording, Two Much Fun!,on Eaglear Records, as co-leader with flutist Jill Allen. While in the Rocky Mountain region, he toured the West with various groups and performed regularly at all the established jazz clubs, including the famous El Chapultepec. He also performed countless times at the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley, where he taught during his eight years in Colorado.
Relocated to eastern Pennsylvania in 1995, Skip resumed his performing career on the east coast with the Wilkins & Allen Quartet. In 2001 on Cathexis Records, Skip and Jill Allen released Petty Theft,which featured guest performances by Grammy-nominated saxophonist David Liebman. He also continued to perform in concert with all-stars, including saxophonists Stanley Turrentine and Bobby Watson, trumpeter Clark Terry, trombonist Al Grey, and drummer T.S. Monk. Of course, right in his backyard Skip periodically performs with Philadelphia legends Mickey Roker, Larry McKenna and John Swana, among many others. Skip plays all of the great regional jazz venues, including Ortlieb’s Jazzhaus and Chris’s Jazz Café, both in Philadelphia, and Delaware Water Gap’s Deer Head Inn.
In 2005, Skip formed a new working ensemble, Skip Wilkins Quintet. Together they recorded eighteen of his original compositions, for release on two CDs. The first, Skip Wilkins Quintet: Volume I, was released in September of 2006 on Dreambox Media (DMJ-1101). Their current April 2007 release is Volume II on Dreambox Media (DMJ-1104). Group members include bassist Tony Marino and drummer Gary Rissmiller, with whom he has been performing and touring for over a decade; guitarist Tom Kozic, with whom he has given concerts for eight years; and relative newcomer tenor saxophonist Paul Kendall.
Since Skip relocated to the east coast, he has continued to tour around the United States and in Italy as a soloist and as part of various groups. Some noteworthy performances have included New York’s Tavern on the Green and Cleopatra’s Needle, The Wichita Jazz Festival (where the Wilkins & Allen Quartet served as Artists-in-Residence), and The Blue Room at the Kansas City Jazz Museum. He also gave performances at the University of North Texas, Williams College, and the Rochester Institute of Technology, and at other venues in Arizona, Colorado, New York, Pennsylvania and North Carolina. Nearer to his home, Skip has performed often at Muhlenberg and Moravian Colleges and at Lafayette College, where he is Assistant Professor of Music.
Skip's recordings and performances have always received critical acclaim, and since its release in September 2006, Volume I has received lots of positive attention. In 2001 he received a fellowship from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts. He was given the award for excellence in jazz composition. Many of the compositions for which he was recognized were included on Petty Theft.
Skip also has numerous other regional associations. He’s heard monthly in the Lehigh Valley with the Tony Gairo-Gary Rissmiller Jazz Orchestra and is prominently featured on the Orchestra’s 2006 release, Treacherous, on Seabreeze Jazz Records. He also performs and records with The Trio, an ensemble featuring bassist Roy Cumming and drummer Glenn Davis. For nine straight years, Skip has given a monthly salon performance at the Blue Orchid Inn in nearby Mertztown, Pennsylvania. For most performances, he invites a guest to perform with him, but occasionally performs solo. Blue Orchid Inn is an exceptional, intimate spot to see and hear jazz, with exquisite food and a loyal clientele that returns for the experience each month.
Skip holds his undergraduate degree from Holy Cross College, and a master of music degree from the University of Northern Colorado. He also studied jazz composition and arranging with Herb Pomeroy at Berklee College of Music in Boston, and is a former faculty member at Berklee.