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Review Bellarmine University
GUITARISTS JACK WILKINS and HOWARD ALDEN AT BELLARMINE
Guitarists Jack Wilkins and Howard Alden returned to Bellarmine University for its 23rd annual Jazz Guitar Clinic and a concert. The concert, on Monday, June 8, featured these two artists together with Bellarmine Professor and guitarist Jeff Sherman, with accompaniment from bassist Tyrone Wheeler and drummer Terry O'Mahoney. They opened with "I'm Old Fashioned" and "Theme from ‘Arthur," before the guest artists turned the stage over to Sherman, Wheeler and O'Mahoney for a song dedicated to Sherman's wife, "You Look Good to Me." They followed with a delicate rendition of "Say It Over and Over Again." The next segment featured an unaccompanied Alden, who offered words of praise to one of his mentors, George Van Eps, another seven-string guitar player. Alden uses the seventh string for additional bass, and this was highlighted in Van Eps' "Lap Piano." He then performed Barney Kessel's "I Remember Django," accompanied by Wheeler and O'Mahoney. This trio closed the first set with the fast and furious "64 Bars on Wilshire," another Kessel composition.
Alden returned with Jack Wilkins after a brief intermission. They have been performing together as a duo for several years now, and seemed to alternately complement and challenge one another. They opened with a composition by Burton Lane, whose title I didn't catch. They played interlocking leads on this piece, rather than taking turns soloing and comping. Wilkins then improvised extensively before Alden joined him on one of the most unique versions of "My Funny Valentine" which I can remember hearing. A Brazilian song, whose title translates to "My Little Doe," offered more of the duo's engaging musical conversations. Wilkins then soloed on Henry Mancini's "Two for the Road," before being joined by Wheeler and O'Mahoney for the standards "If I Were a Bell" and "It Had to Be You," the latter of which featured a beautifully bowed solo by Wheeler. Sherman and Alden then stepped back on stage for the final numbers of the night, Jimmy Raney's "Prologue and Epilogue" and a Tal Farlow arrangement of the Gershwin standard "Fascinating Rhythm." The Raney piece had been composed for the Bellarmine Guitar Ensemble, and Sherman jokingly mentioned that "we actually rehearsed this." Through both of the final songs, the guitarists played well together, never getting in one another's way. O'Mahoney's brushwork had been in particularly fine form throughout the night, and he got a chance to solo on the last song.
Over the years, I have come to think of the Bellarmine Jazz Guitar Workshop and Concert as "the Rites of Summer," falling as it does in early June. Each year Sherman presents some of the finest examples of mainstream jazz guitar, and 2009 was no exception.
Martin Kasdan (Louisville Music News).