The most striking thing about Tal Wilkenfeld is her appearance.
Small in stature, the 20-something Australian-born bassist looks like a mere teenager on stage, holding an instrument that at times seems oversized for her.
But rest assured that Wilkenfeld holds her own on the bass. Just ask Jeff Beck, Chick Corea, Prince and a number of music legends who have increasingly sought out the waifish bassist’s formidable talent.
Wilkenfeld’s most noteworthy gig has been alongside Jeff Beck, with whom she’s toured and recorded for several years. But her musical career has had significantly more breadth.
Born in Sydney, Wilkenfeld began playing guitar at age 14, and dropped out of high school two years later to pursue a music career. She migrated to the U.S. and began studying the instrument — only to switch to bass at age 17.
Then things took off.
Within just a few months of picking up the bass, Wilkenfeld was endorsed by Sadowsky Guitars, and began forming her own band in New York City. She made the rounds in the Big Apple jazz circuit and gained enough attention to land some high-profile gigs.
Her big break came in 2006 when, at just 20 years old, she performed with the Allman Brothers Band and recorded her debut album, Transformation. The album, which was written, arranged and produced by the young bassist, prompted jazz great Chick Corea to hire Wilkenfeld and hit the road with her in tow.
Touring Australia with Corea, Wilkenfeld then caught the eye of Hall of Fame guitarist Jeff Beck, who added her to his band.
“What can I say about Tal Wilkenfeld?” Beck is quoted as saying on Wilkenfeld’s website. “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 bezerk half way through her solo left me emotional, and that is an understatement,” Beck said. “The word proud is barely adequate.”
Still, Wilkenfeld has remained busy on a number of other musical projects. In addition to Corea and Beck, she’s played alongside the likes of Prince, Eric Clapton, Robben Ford, Gov’t Mule, Buddy Guy, Sting and a host of others.
The beauty of it is she’s still just a kid — even if appearances can be deceiving.
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(NOTE: This is part of my ongoing series of reports on guitar players who fly under the mainstream radar. Keep checking The Listening Room for future installments of guitar players you should know – JF)
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