Tal Wilkenfeld

Chris Jisi

If you haven’t heard of Tal Wilkenfeld by now you must be playing some other bass instrument. The 21-year-old plucking prodigy has already blazed a trail from her native Australia to L.A. to New York, gigging with top jazzers on both coasts—culminating in a recent tour back down under as a member of Chick Corea’s quartet. On her aptly-titled, vibrant debut, Wilkenfeld displays a writing depth and musical presence to complement the buzz about her dynamic-yet-discerning bass approach.

From the disc-opening riff of the jammy jazz-rocker, “BC,” Tal is in control and in your face. Speaking through her Sadowsky 4-string via surging, stabbing lines reminiscent of Jaco Pastorius and Paul Jackson, she fearlessly leads, challenges, and dialogues with veteran improv masters Geoff Keezer on keyboards, Keith Carlock on drums, and Wayne Krantz on guitar. “Cosmic Joke,” written for her musical mentor, Krantz, “Serendipity,” with its Marcus-like slapped melody, and “Oatmeal Bandage,” (her nickname for pal Oteil Burbridge, who guests with a brief Mutron melody) all showcase another Tal trademark: Her natural gift for writing in odd meters while retaining an indelible sense of melody and groove.

Most revealing are the ballads. “The River of Life” and the autobiographical “Table For One” unfold via various themes and development, introducing major and minor moods and different feels along the way. The anthem may well be “The Truth Be Told.” Co-written with Keezer, it’s a perfect, understated bossa ballad carried by Tal’s expressive melody reading and usual assured solo. As Vinnie Colaiuta observes in his liner notes, there’s plenty of nuance and subtlety beneath the surface, but make no mistake, this lass is poised to soar.
—Chris Jisi

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