Wayne Wilkinson: Colorado Springs’ own jazz musician

6 November 2018

Eric Friedberg

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    The Colorado Springs local, Wayne Wilkinson, experiments with high-tempo jazz and chordy rhythmic progressions as a professional jazz musician.

    With a resume as broad as the White House, Carnegie Hall and Colorado Springs’ own Motif Jazz Café, Wilkinson and his now trio have certainly earned the title as jazz veterans of Colorado Springs.

    It’s the upbeat drumming and implied melodies woven into Wilkinson’s music that makes listening to jazz less of a gut check and more of a relaxing feel.

    Blending drums, guitar and upright bass into every song, a cohesive performance is never out of the ordinary for the Wayne Wilkinson Trio.

    The Scribe checks in with Wayne Wilkinson in an email: talking about his upcoming shows in Colorado this year, the importance of social media as a musician and the lifetime chance he had to play with the president of the United States.


    Jazz is so different from all other genres of music. What attracts you to jazz? And what do you find most fun about playing jazz live? 

    “Jazz is completely American in that it is based on individual expression. You have total freedom to improvise over the chord progression, and you also have the freedom to play the melody as it suits you. Playing with a group in jazz can be a rush as you talk to each other through the music and feed off of each other with the audience as well.”       

    I heard you played either with or in front of a president at the White House. Who was the president? And how did you score this gig? 

    “This was for and with President Clinton. This happened at Christmas time and we were able to perform for a White House party, although those opportunities usually went to the Marine Band (called “The President’s Own”). Somehow, we were able to slip in against the will of the Marine Band. We made sure to bring along an extra sax ready for him to play.

    After inviting him, President Clinton sat in for quite a while. He didn’t want to leave. We kept throwing him chart after chart and of course, letting him have all the solos. The social secretaries in charge of the party were getting upset that he wasn’t leaving the bandstand. He was having a great time playing with us. Within a few seconds of him setting in, everyone gathered around the band and were loving it. People always ask me “how did he do?” I tell them “he did a better job as a musician than I would as a president.””  

    Growing up as a jazz musician, what was it like not having marketing tools the internet gives us? Facebook, YouTube, Bandcamp, etc.?

    “It was a different ballgame with posters, paid media ads and phone calls. Today, we have the opportunity to self promote in a more personal way with social media. Every performance is an opportunity to create a relationship and build a fan following. YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Constant Contact are incredible tools.”

    Do you have any favorite jazz clubs that you like to play at in the Springs?

    “Yes, we are blessed to have Motif Jazz Cafe, The Wild Goose Meeting House and performing opportunities with The Colorado Springs Conservatory. There are certainly other great venues in town as well.” 

    What would you say the importance of the Jazz club is in this day in age? 

    “We often play to younger audiences that are hearing a jazz guitar trio for perhaps the first time. The response is so gratifying as you watch the interest on their faces and the positive response. Live music is wonderful and live jazz takes it to another level. They are experiencing “in the moment” music being made, and since it’s jazz, they are hearing songs with more than 2 or 3 chord changes, with melody and are experiencing improvised lines and complex rhythms as opposed to predictable simple arrangements.”

    You just recently released your album “Lenore Raphael, Wayne Wilkinson & Chris Hodgkins Live at Pizza Express” which was recorded at a jazz club in London. How did you get the opportunity to play in London?

    “I was on tour with a Steinway Piano artist in London and Israel. We played The London Jazz Festival at Pizza Express which was also where we recorded that album the day before. Then we played the Tel Aviv Jazz Festival. Lots of fun. The year after that, we played The Pizza Express for The London Jazz Festival after touring though Wales followed by an Israel tour again. I am scheduled for another London, Wales and European tour next year with Chris Hodgkins.”

    What about this show was so special to you that you felt the need to put it on a record? 

    “The London Jazz Festival is a unique opportunity to capture a performance with musicians and an appreciative audience. Jazz is music that connects with audiences across the world, transcending language and culture for a one-of-a-kind experience.”