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Combining new compositions and old standards, the Skip Wilkins Quartet will give a free jazz concert 8 p.m. today at the Williams Center for the Arts.

Admission is free and no tickets are required.

Wilkins, a jazz pianist and assistant professor of music at Lafayette, will be joined by bassist Scott Lee, drummer Jeff Hirshfield, and tenor sax player Andrew Rathbun. The concert will feature the premiere of new compositions by Wilkins, in additions to standards and songs by Wilkins not yet performed in Pennsylvania.

“I am excited about this band,” says Wilkins, a Macungie resident. “I have an association going back a few years with both Scott Lee and Jeff Hirshfield, and I am looking forward to taking the stage with a new friend, Andrew Rathbun. This is a great bunch from New York. These guys know exactly what to do with my music. In rehearsal and on the bandstand, so little instruction or discussion is needed. I just wind ’em up and they go and go and go.”

For more than 25 years, Wilkins has enjoyed performing with many great musicians, including saxophonists David Liebman, Stanley Turrentine, Bobby Watson and Plas Johnson; vocalist Mark Murphy; trumpeters Clark Terry and Conte Candoli; trombonist Al Grey; bassist Milt Hinton; drummers Bob Moses, Joe Hunt, and Peter Erskine; and flutist Jill Allen. Recently, he has played at Lehigh Valley venues such as Easton’s CafĂ© Aaron and far beyond.

In 2001, Wilkins and Allen released Petty Theft on Cathexis Records. Featuring the Wilkins & Allen Quartet and Grammy-nominated saxophonist David Liebman, the CD received significant airplay and positive reviews nationwide. It received a three-star review from Karl Stark in the Philadelphia Inquirer. It is available in a variety of national retail outlets and independent stores where jazz recordings are sold, as well as from major Internet sources. Previously, Wilkins & Allen released Two Much Fun! on Eaglear Records. Some of their highlight performances together include New York’s Tavern on the Green and The Wichita Jazz Festival, and tours around the United States. Liebman has performed with their quartet as featured guest numerous times.

Wilkins teaches courses in music theory and jazz at Lafayette. Previously, he taught at the University of Northern Colorado, spending many of his eight years there in the nationally acclaimed Jazz Studies program. He earned a bachelor’s degree from Holy Cross College and a master’s degree from the University of Northern Colorado. He also studied jazz composition and arrangement with Herb Pomeroy at Berklee College of Music in Boston, and is a former faculty member at Berklee.

Wilkins is a 2001 fellowship recipient from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, receiving an award for excellence in jazz composition. Many of the compositions for which he was recognized are included on Petty Theft.

Andrew Rathbun, a Canadian, lays claim to a diverse professional music career. Taking up residence in Boston in 1992, he received his master’s degree with Academic Honors and Distinction in Performance from the New England Conservatory, where he studied with George Garzone, Jimmy Guiffre, and George Russell. Rathbun has played and/or recorded with notables such as Eddie Gomez, Kenny Wheeler, George Garzone, Jay Anderson, John Abercrombie, Ingrid Jensen, Don Thompson, and Reggie Workman. He has been featured on radio and television programs, including CBC Television’s “Jazzbeat” and “Jazz Sur la Vif” CBC Television, and on WGBH in Boston. He has performed at festivals and clubs throughout North America, including the Montreal, Toronto, and Boston Globe Jazz Festivals, and toured Canada with his own quintet.

Rathbun’s latest solo recording, True Stories, released on the Fresh Sound label, is a work for sextet that includes texts by Canadian author and poet Margaret Atwood. His other recent releases — Scatter Some Stones on Challenge Records and Jade on Fresh Sound Recordings — present the best of his talents as player, leader and composer. His next release, Sculptures (Fresh Sound), featuring Kenny Wheeler, is due for release in late April.

Lee is a bassist, composer, and educator who has been a player on the New York music scene for 20 years. He has recorded and toured Europe with Chet Baker and Joe Lovano and has long associations as a sideman for Ken Werner, Tim Hagans, Chris Conner, Morgana King, Jimmy Ponder, and Helen Merrill. He has toured with the Andy Statman Quartet and is featured on Statman’s 1998 Sony Classical release, TheHidden Light.

Lee’s professional experience includes years of work with new music ensembles, the Metropolitan Opera Guild performance of Puccini’s Gianni Schicci, and the world premiere of Charles Ives’s Universe Symphony at Lincoln Center. He teaches privately in New York City and has been part of the visiting artist series at Berklee.

In 1998, Lee released With Ease on Cathexis Records to critical acclaim. The CD features Scott’s compositions and his New York group: Billy Drewes on saxophones, Russ Lossing on piano, and Jeff Hirshfield on drums. Lee also plays on Joe Lovano’s upcoming spring Blue Note release Viva Caruso, which features the music of Enrico Caruso.

Hirshfield, a New York native, has worked with numerous jazz giants as well as with many musicians on the cutting edge, appearing on over 125 recordings. His many credits include work with Dr. John, Toots Thielemans, Red Rodney/Ira Sullivan, Charlie Mariano, Toshiko Akiyoshi/Lew Tabackin, John Zorn, Eliane Elias, Randy Brecker, John Taylor, Fred Hersch, Mose Allison, Bennie Wallace, John Abercrombie, Jim Hall, Paul Bley, Bob Brookmeyer, Marc Copland, and many others. He also continues to maintain a busy schedule of touring and recording with many other artists as well as conducting clinics and workshops around the world.

Categorized in: Academic News