About Tal Wilkenfeld
Widely hailed as “the rising star of the bass guitar,” Tal Wilkenfeld first picked up guitar at the age of 14, in her native Sydney, Australia. She soon realized her passion and decided to pursue music professionally in the United States. After six months of studying guitar in Los Angeles, Tal found her true calling, and switched to the bass. It didn’t take long for the 17-year-old prodigy to get noticed; after playing bass for only a few months, famed luthier Roger Sadowsky heard her play and immediately offered her an endorsement with Sadowsky Guitars. Very quickly, Tal started performing as a sideman and bandleader, playing with the likes of Russell Ferrante, Kenwood Dennard, Hiram Bullock, Jeff “Tain” Watts, Leni Stern, Susan Tedeschi, and the Allman Brothers Band.
In May 2006, Tal recorded her first solo album, “Transformation.” She was 20, and had been playing bass for only three years. As well as demonstrating her prowess on bass, Tal also composed, arranged, and produced the album. The CD, which was released in 2007, features guitar savant Wayne Krantz, Geoff Keezer, Keith Carlock and Seamus Blake. It has been widely acclaimed by critics and music fans all over the world, with Bass Player magazine noting, “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. Tal has a natural gift for writing in odd meters while retaining an indelible sense of melody and groove. Make no mistake, this lass is poised to soar.”
On the heels of “Transformation,” some big breaks came Tal’s way. At just 21, she accompanied jazz giant Chick Corea on his tour of Australia. One month later, guitar legend Jeff Beck asked her to join him on a European Summer Tour. The Beck tour culminated at Eric Clapton’s Crossroads Festival, where Jeff featured Tal with a blistering solo on “Cause We’ve Ended as Lovers.” Many regard this as one of the highlights of the show. That track, along with “Big Block,” are featured on the DVD “Crossroads Guitar Festival 2007.” Perhaps her remarkable musical gift is best summed up by Jeff Beck, who enthused, “What can I say about Tal Wilkenfeld? How does one describe an astonishing talent? The answer is, you don’t. You listen, and watch, as 45,000 people did in Chicago at the Crossroads Festival 2007. I have witnessed special moments in my time, but to see all those ‘dyed-in-the-wool’ blues fanatics and guitar freaks go berzzzzerk half way through her solo left me emotional, and that is an understatement. The word proud is barely adequate.”
Four months later, Jeff asked Tal to perform with him on a series of shows in London, where they were joined by special guests Eric Clapton and Joss Stone. This concert was recorded and came out on CD in November 2008 as “Performing This Week…Live at Ronnie Scott’s.” All about Jazz adds: “There are plenty of bassists with staggering technique and chops, but few can make the instrument truly sing, as Wilkenfeld does on Beck’s CD during an all-stops-out solo on Stevie Wonder’s “‘Cause We’ve Ended as Lovers.” On the same trip to England, Tal joined Herbie Hancock on a session with fellow jazz icon Wayne Shorter, which was filmed for the A&E TV series “Live from Abbey Road.” Singer Corinne Bailey Rae and drummer Vinnie Colaiuta were also featured on the session.
Tal wrapped up 2007 via a pair of standing-room-only Greenwich Village gigs with Wayne Krantz. She also accompanied Wayne on gigs in L.A., and then embarked on a tour of Australia in the fall of ’08, with Wayne and Keith Carlock–a reunion of the core band who appeared on “Transformation.” At the conclusion of the tour, Wayne and Keith, along with John Beasley, backed Tal during her headlining set for Bass Player Live 2008. Elsewhere, in July 2008, Tal accompanied Jeff Beck at the Grammy’s Tribute to George Martin concert in L.A. She was also invited by Warren Haynes to participate in his 20th Annual Christmas Jam, in Asheville, North Carolina. There, she performed with the Allman Brothers Band, Gov’t Mule, Ivan Neville, and Robben Ford. As a final “star on the tree”, Tal was voted “The Year’s Most Exciting New Player” in Bass Player’s 2008 Readers Choice Awards.
Fulfilling the title of her critically-hailed debut disc, Tal Wilkenfeld’s transformation has been continuing at a dizzying pace. Early 2009 saw Tal in New York City where she was featured as a special guest on “Late Night With Jimmy Fallon” sitting in with “The Roots”. She then went on to tour extensively with Jeff Beck in Australia, Japan, America, Europe, Canada and the UK. During the UK run, David Gilmour sat in with the group during a special performance at the Royal Albert Hall. One of the highlights of the year included playing with Jeff at his induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, which featured Tal playing “Immigrant Song” with Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page. Jeff Beck Recalls: “When I was inducted, we were going to have Jimmy Page come on and play ‘(Beck’s) Bolero’. But I didn’t think it would be right for him to be playing rhythm guitar all the way through that one number. Then the phone rang and it was Tal Wilkenfeld, my then bass player. She was on the way down in the elevator and told me we should play ‘Immigrant Song.’ We were going on in ten minutes and had no time to rehearse. She said ‘Oh, when you stop in the middle of ‘Bolero’, when the rhythm changes, we’ll kick in to ‘Immigrant Song’. “That’s what I like – right on the hoof. Nobody knew, the lighting and sound guys didn’t know, the organizers didn’t know. I just grabbed the microphone and shouted, “Jimmy Paaaage!” and went straight into the song. I loved that. That’s what you call dangerous, that’s living on your reflexes.”
July also found Tal in the studio, playing bass on a track for Herbie Hancock’s upcoming CD. In October Tal reunited with Jeff at Madison Square Garden for the historic Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame’s 25th Anniversary two night concert. Beck’s searing set included guests Buddy Guy, Sting and Billy Gibbons.
February began with the exhilarating word that Jeff Beck had won a Grammy for the much acclaimed CD/DVD “Jeff Beck: Performing This Week…Live At Ronnie Scott’s.” In addition, Tal was featured on 4 tracks on Jeff’s new album, “Emotion & Commotion”, leading Bass Player magazine to write, “Wilkenfeld powers four tracks with present, prescient parts; this includes ‘Serene,’ with her ear-grabbing fills and brief but bright solo.” On the flipside came the news that after three thrilling years, Tal could not participate in Beck’s current world tour because of scheduling issues. The time had come for her to focus all of her energy into writing and recording for her new solo project. While working away on her album in Los Angeles, Tal was asked to record on 3 CD’s that are all due out in June 2010. Herbie Hancock’s “the Imagine Project” where Tal appears on “A Change is Gonna Come” featuring James Morisson and “Don’t Give Up” featuring John Legend and Pink; Macy Grays “The Sell-out” where Tal performs on the song “That Man”; and Lee Ritenours “Six String Theory”, Featuring Tal on “68” with Steve Lukather, Neal Schon, and Slash; “In your Dreams” With Steve Lukather and Lee Ritenour; “Give Me One Reason” with Joe Bonamassa and Robert Cray; and Guthrie Govan’s song “Fives” featuring a solo by Tal. On May 23rd she made a special appearance at the Baked Potato 40th anniversary show at the Ford Ampitheater with Steve Lukather’s band.
Along with all the albums due out this summer, Tal will accompany Herbie Hancock on dates across US, Canada and Europe to support his new CD “The Imagine Project”. This short tour will include two special shows at Carnegie Hall and The Hollywood Bowl to celebrate Herbie’s 70th birthday.
While talking to the Ventura County Reporter about the upcoming tour, Herbie enthuses “Ive also got Tal Wilkenfeld, an electric bass player from Australia; shes been working with Jeff Beck. One of the most important qualities I look for in a musician is intuition. Absolutely. Vinnie Colaiuta has that. So does Tal Wilkenfeld, even though shes still a budding musician. To me, shes a derivative of Jaco Pastorius she has the technique, the lyricism, and she plays flawlessly. But Jacos only one of her influences. I listen to her and I think: how can she only be 24?”
After the tour, Tal returns to the studio, and is aiming for an April 2011 release of her new CD. Stay Tuned!