I heard the name of Jack Wilkins for the first time in Paris in 1978 (I am French and I lived there until 1995). After having played guitar for nearly 20 years (folk music, rock, with some studio gigs and dancing gigs), I was learning jazz from 1978 till 1980 with the best teacher in Europe, Pierre Cullaz. This is when I acquired my flawless technique (just kidding).
I wanted to listen to good guitar playing and I was spending twice my pay every month in Lido Musique, a famous music store then on the Champs Élysées. The guy who was selling jazz records had the most complete collection of great jazz guitar players records. So, one day in 1978, he pulled out an album with a smile on his face and told me that this guy, here, is awesome. This was Jack Wilkins playing a couple of tunes from his album 'You can't live without it' (listen to an audio in Jack's video & audio section). By the way Jack told me 20 years after he recorded this album that he played a Fender telecaster on this album and I would have never guessed), with a bunch of first class New York City jazz monsters like Mike Brecker and his brother Randy. I was playing in some clubs in Paris and also was listening to the best french players, including jazz and gypsy players. Christian Escoudé at the time just came back from a visit in the US and told me that the player who impressed him the most was Jack Wilkins. It is in the same club that I was listening to Raphael Fayes and his father Louis. Raphael was trying to convince me to play gypsy swing tunes but I waited till 2011 to do so.
Twenty years later I was living in Montréal and I really wanted to pick the brain of Jack Wilkins. To make it short we met for one week everytime for half a dozen times in Montréal and I visited him for a couple of days a dozen times in his Manhattan condo.
We played music (at least he did), drank good wine (I did also), played chess (I won most of the time but if you ask Jack he will tell you he did), ate in good restaurants and had fun. My guitar playing changed...
This was the first visit of Jack in Montréal. At the time I played Gibson L5CES (I had 52 of these, from the best years, 1959 till 1965) and Gibson ES 175 (a dozen from 1958 till 1963). Jack fell in love with my 1963 L5CES and left with it after paying its price.
This was my very first lesson with Jack. I weighted 80 Lbs more than today and knew half the chords I know today... I played there a 1962 Gibson ES 175D and Jack played my Benedetto. Even my dog was interested in Jack's music.
After five days with Jack I learnt a lot so Jack was happy. He also learnt was good french wine was...
Jack was leaving the same day and I guess he was thinking 'I am glad to go back to NYC and play there with really good musicians'.
Along his career Jack has played with all the greats (he is a great himself): Mike Brecker, Eddy Gomez, etc...