Best Jazz Artist - 1999
Readers' Choice: Nestor Torres
Classically trained on the bass, Don Wilner may seem like a musical nerd. He holds a doctorate in music from the University of Miami (where he taught for many years) and he has published numerous articles about jazz performance and pedagogy. But when he plays in the Van Dyke Café's upstairs bar, he reveals himself to be the heppest of hepcats, a jazz man through and through. As the Van Dyke's musical coordinator, he keeps the room humming seven days a week. As in-house bassist he's there more often than not, playing along with some of the hottest names in the jazz world: Mose Allison, Mark Murphy, Johnny O'Neal, and Grady Tate to name a few. Whether accompanying greats, performing with the members of his own hard-bop ensemble (currently fielding offers from major record labels), or letting loose on a solo during a performance by his trio (James Martin and Mark Marineau), Wilner swings, sways, grooves, takes it seriously, takes it fun, grimaces, smiles, sweats, and gives the impression he's loving every minute of it. His recently released album, the eclectic Mysterious Beauty, features jazzy takes on classical tunes (themes from Georges Bizet's opera Carmen), standards (Hoagy Carmichael's "Stardust" and Harold Arlen's "Ill Wind"), and bebop classics (Charlie Parker's "Dexterity") and recently earned a rave review from the esteemed Jazz Times magazine.