Talk about determination.
Tal Wilkenfeld started playing guitar at 14. By 16, she’d decided that high school was not really a place that demanded her presence, and she left her native Australia behind, hopped a flight to Los Angeles, and enrolled in the LA Music Academy College of Music, where she studied both guitar and bass. At 18, she bailed on LA, headed for New York City, put a band together, composed an album’s worth of songs, and started making a name for herself on the NYC jazz scene.
At 20, she released her ambitious debut effort, “Transformation,” which found killer jazz and fusion players like Keith Carlock and Wayne Krantz performing songs she’d composed and arranged. At 21, Wilkenfeld was asked to join Chick Corea’s touring band. A year later, Jeff Beck heard her play, and promptly enrolled her in what would prove to be one of the strongest bands in his career, alongside the likes of drummer Vinnie Colaiuta and keyboardist Jason Rebello. It would be the gig with Jeff Beck that brought Wilkenfeld to the attention of a mass audience. Her playing on the “Live at Ronnie Scott’s” album and concert film is simply stunning, particularly when one realizes the depth of talent and the decades of experience that players like Beck and Colaiuta can boast of. Bass players the world over took notice of Wilkenfeld’s dazzling ability to marry serious chops with soulfulness, feel, and an unerring sense of groove. Barely into her twenties, Wilkenfeld was being called one of the most accomplished musicians of her generation.
Word gets around, naturally, so it was less than surprising to learn that the Who had selected Wilkenfeld and her band to open for the legendary British band’s 50th anniversary tour. That tour finds Wilkenfeld and the Who performing at Air Canada Centre on March 1. The next day is a day off for the Who, but Wilkenfeld and her band won’t be resting – they’ll be heading south for a headlining show of their own, at the Tralf Music Hall (622 Main St.) beginning at 8 p.m. ($14, General Admission; Ticketmaster.com, Tralf Music Hall box office).