Tal Wilkenfeld is truly a wonder to behold. It's not often that I feel compelled to immediately get out the laptop computer the moment I first catch a glimpse of somebody on television (singing, acting, whathaveyou) and Google them. I had just such an experience with Tal when I saw her guest bassing one night on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon (I'm still getting used to that).
My problem with Tal Wilkenfeld is that the reasons that I should be fascinated by her conflict with the reasons that I am. As much as I'd like to say to the contrary, I must honestly admit that I was captivated by her beauty first and her monster talent at the bass second. It was her youth and smile (and overall looks in general) that had forced me over to the laptop, not her bass-playing. I only realized how good that was by viewing a YouTube video of her. On Jimmy Fallon's show I did not get a good sense of her musical talent before I saw her face because she was just playing along with the rest of the band, not solo. In an ideal world, even if it was not possible to see the talent of the person before her looks, one would still consider a person's talent before her looks later. If you may not believe me, check out this image (for a good look at her face and smile) or this one (for a good look at her body).
But, again, I'm being honest, I'm not sure I always think of her talent first when I think of Tal. Most often it's her incredible looks. Is this wrong? Or is it natural? We've seen recently the whole Susan Boyle saga for a real good lesson on not judging a book by its cover. Deep talent resided behind the double chin and bushy eyebrows, but it was obvious that the audience was not expecting it. Is assuming there is great talent in somebody beautiful just as wrong, even it turns out that you were correct in the assumption? When a symphony is choosing a new violinist, when individuals audition they do so behind a curtain so the looks of the symphonic hopeful does not sway the judges. If only there could be a curtain in front of every performer the first time you see him or her, you'd know for sure that your opinion on her/his talent would be based solely on the performance.
The point is, if you'll forgive that rambling, is that Tal Wilkenfeld is the whole package: awesome talent, mind, and looks. She was born in Sydney, Australia in 1986 (exact date proves to be elusive) and first began playing the guitar at 14 years old. When she was 17 she decided to try out bass and has never gone back, fascinated by the frets I suppose. After only a few months Roger Sadowsky offered her an endorsement with Sadowsky Guitars. With aspirations of forming her own band and becoming famous she moved to New York City the next year.
It took about two years for Tal's first break, performing as a guest with the Allman Brothers Band. Her debut solo album, Transformation, was recorded over a period of merely two days. She worked with the likes of Wayne Krantz, Geoffrey Keezer, Seamus Blake, and Keith Carlock on that album, producing, composing, arranging, and playing bass on seven different tunes with them. In 2007 she toured with Chick Corea along with Frank Gambale and Antonio Sanchez. To drop more names (she sure has gotten to work with a lot of revered mucicians hasn't she?) she also played with Jeff Beck (along with Vinnie Colaiuta, and Jason Rebello) for his summer European tour. And then, continuing to play with Jeff Beck in jazz clubs in London, she also got to perform with none other than Eric Clapton and Joss Stone.
Over the next few years, she performed with many more musical icons. The list just goes on and on (Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Corrine Bailey Rae, Wayne Krantz, John Beasely, the Allman Brothers again, Gov't Mule, Ian Neveille, Robben Ford, former Led Zeppelin members, Hiram Bullock, Susan Tedeschi, Rod Stewart, John Mayer, Ron Holloway, Prince, and The Roots on her aforementioned appearance on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon).
Tal Wilkenfeld may not be world famous yet in the sense that she's recognized on the street by passers-by ("LOOK! IT'S TAL WILKENFELD!") but she has certainly gotten around in the jazz - and otherwise - musical scene. And with all of those icons knowing her name, maybe it won't be long before she is mobbed for autographs while grabbing a latte at a coffee shop.