Press + Testimonials

Don Wilner- bassist, performs in both the classical and jazz genres. He earned a Doctorate in Music and taught at the University of Miami, was the Principal Bassist and a featured soloist with the Palm Beach Pops, and the Assistant Principal Bassist with the Miami City Ballet for many years. 

Don can be heard on his CD’s- Estrada Do Sol (with Duduka Da Fonseca, Harry Allen, Mike Orta, Sammy Figueroa), Figments Of My Imagination (with Eric Alexander, Kenny Drew, Jr., Mike Orta) , Mysterious Beauty (with Mike Renzi, Grady Tate), Eddie Higgins’ Picture in Black & White, Annette Sanders collaboration with Mike Renzi, Everything I Love, as well as on many other recordings. 

He is the author of several articles on jazz bass, including “Interactive Jazz Improvisation in the Bill Evan’s Trio.” 

Don was named “Best Jazz Musician” in Miami New Times Magazine Best of Miami Issue. 

An outstanding accompanist and soloist, he has performed and recorded with George Coleman, Maureen McGovern, Mark Murphy, Carmen McRae, James Moody, Ceder Walton, Tom Harrell, Fred Hersch, Toots Theilmans, Hubert Laws, Eddie Harris, Dizzy Gillespie, Nat Adderley, Peter Nero, Harry Allen, Scott Hamilton, John Abercrombie, Adam Nussbaum, Michell LeGrand, Marion McPartland, and many others. 

Named Best Jazz Musician in Miami New Times Magazine Best of Miami Issue 2000. Dr. Wilner originated, promoted, and sustained the jazz music program at the Van Dyke for 13 years (until it was sold in 2007), which New Times labeled Best Jazz Club in Miami numerous times. 

“Wilner is one of the rare symphony musicians capable of first-rate jazz. His solos and interchanges . . . are lovely, and his upper-range arco playing has the vocal-like quality of a ‘cello. Much of the program (with Higgins) has a Blanton-Ellington feel, rather than the usual ‘piano with rhythm’.” critic Art Hilgart. 

Doug Ramsey, the well-known music critic for Jazz Times Magazine, wrote “Wilner is an astonishing bass player whether bowing, walking, interacting . . . or covering the instrument from top to bottom in his pizzicato solos. His purity of tone and breadth of technique may come from his classical background. They are matched by a time feeling achieved only by musicians with a bone-deep jazz sensibility.”

Best Jazz Artist 
Don Wilner

Published on May 13, 1999

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.

Best House Band 
The Don Wilner Quintet 

Published on May 17, 2001

To hear these guys smoke through a number on Tuesday nights is to infuse your life with a sudden dash of Fifties cool. You’ll walk away feeling sharper. You’ll want to crease your trousers and wear shades inside. Eddie Higgins’s fingers float over the keyboard like darting minnows in a tide pool. Gilly DiBenedetto summons mesmerizingly fluid tones from his sax. And Wilner sets the foundation for it all with his upright bass. Half an hour or so into the set, Tony Fernandez’s gilded pipes warble Frank Sinatra tunes with such effortless grace, you’d think you had just stepped off the set of Ocean’s Eleven. Master violinist Federico Britos ignites his strings. Depending on the night Lenny Steinberg or James Martin will be tapping the drums. Put a boutonniere in your lapel, snap your fingers, and order a martini. One word to the wise: Higgins, who has recorded with the likes of Stan Getz and Dizzy Gillespie, spends his summers on Cape Cod. But fret not: He returns in the fall.

“Bassist Don Wilner alone is worth a trip to Miami Beach.” 
(Posted on Yahoo Travel Guide- The Van Dyke Café)

Maria Angelica Ballon said:   April 27th, 2017 4:22 pmI have learned so much from Professor Wilner’s music appreciation class. He is an excellent and passionate teacher. I incorporated the class music syllabus in my phone , and it completely changed my training dynamics. My early long distance weekend runs have a different effect with my new playlist background now. Believe it or not, my rhythm, breathing ,and pace have improved by listening such great music. My next Miami Half Marathon with see this improvement. Thank you Prof. Wilner! Maria Angelica Ballon

Yudelka P. Zapata said:   January 12th, 2017 11:49 amRecently I had the honor of becoming Dr. Wilner’s first violin student. Not only is he a great player, but a great instructor as well. Even though he doesn’t play the violin, he thought me things about the instrument I would’ve never learned on my own. From techniques of playing to new tricks of how to fix intonation problems. It was like meeting the violin all over again!Experienced or not, there will always be a lot to learn from this great professor. Thank you Dr. Wilner!

Christopher said:   May 30th, 2016 9:14 amVery passionate and knowledgeable teacher ! Students who are open minded and willing to put in the work will develop a greater understanding of Jazz . My musical knowledge and applications improved greatly after only 1 semester in his class.Be sure to catch him performing live around Miami!

mark gridley said:   March 10th, 2016 4:59 pmFor many years I have been reviewing course syllabi and class designs for jazz history and appreciation courses. Recently I had the opportunity to review the MUL 2380 course devised by Dr. Don Wilner. It is the most impressive design and comprehensive preparation for students that I have yet to review. Congratulations are due to Professor Wilner for such attention to detail and sensitivity to the needs of novice jazz listeners.

your student at Miami Dade College said:   May 22nd, 2014 2:57 pmAbsolutely a great teacher. He is very passionate about his subject and even played his cello for us as one of the concerts we need to attend to. If you want to slack, then he’s not your guy. But he is really great when you are motivated to learn and study. Took him two years ago and still my favorite till this day.

your student at Miami Dade College said:   May 22nd, 2014 2:56 pmGreat teacher. More than willing to work with his “real” students. Very kool how passionate Dr. Wilner is towards the art od jazz. Excellent musician!

your student at Miami Dade College said:   May 22nd, 2014 2:55 pmAmazing teacher, very passionate about jazz. Not a class for slacker. You will get out what you put in. No nonsense teacher. You will need the book. Will work with you if you show interest. You will definitely learn and come out with a different outlook on music.

your student at Miami Dade College said:   May 22nd, 2014 2:54 pmAbsolutely a great teacher. Great class. He is very passionate and knowledgeable about his subject. If you want to slack, then he’s not for you. But he is really great and will work with you if you are motivated to learn and study. You will get out what you put in. I definitely came out with a much wider knowledge in music than what I expected.

fred schroyer said:   April 26th, 2014 5:41 amHi! Glad you liked my review of your CD on CDBaby! I played that track (Incompatibilidade de Genios) on my Cantinho Brasileiro no Radio on WRCT again last night (4/25/14) for my all-Brazilian Jazz special. Always sglad to hear you play. If I’m ever in Miami, I’d love to meet you, Rose, Beatriz, & others from the Braz Voices. Meanwhile, I’ll enjoy your CDs!

your student at Miami Dade College said:   February 11th, 2014 5:28 pmTo be perfectly honest, I came into this class thinking I would hate everything about it. Now that I’ve finished the semester I’ve realized that it is my favorite class and the only one that I’ve actually read the book. I definitely have a better understanding of music and the history behind it, and I found it incredibly interesting. My favorite part was how you always related the music to cartoons and movies (brought me back to my childhood (really wasn’t that long ago)). You are an amazing professor and I absolutely loved your class 

LeNard Rutledge said:   December 22nd, 2013 10:44 pmDon Wilner is one of the most versatile musicians I’ve ever met. While working as his vocalist for several years, I had the pleasure of honing my skills as singer, perfecting my stage presence and improving my showmanship. I would not have the confidence and polished sound if it were not for the mentorship, teaching and friendship of Dr. Wilner. As time permits, my daughter will study music theory and piano under Don’s guidance.  

Javier Blake said:   November 2nd, 2013 10:34 amDon has a gift for teaching. Literally has changed the way I learn and do things. A true blessing in my life, as learning is the objective, not the means to a goal.

Doug Ramsay said:   October 29th, 2013 7:35 pmFrom a stimulating Porgy and Bess medley to interpretations of themes by Bizet and Gliere. Pianist Mike Renzi and drummer Grady Tate round out the trio. Guitarist and vocalist Ramiro Sosa, percussionist George Mazzeo, and tenor saxophonist Billy Ross make guest appearances. Wilner’s arco perfection and Renzi’s impeccable accompaniment on Glier’s prelude from Vier Stucke constitute one highlight, his witty plucked solo on Parker’s “Dexterity” another. 

Fred Schroyer said:   October 29th, 2013 7:32 pmSuperb Brazilian/American Jazz on a Surprisinf CD This is totally great music, deserving of far wider recognition. Don Wilner is a true bass beast who can make the upright sing like a cello or walk smartly. The other players are terrific and they really work well together. Singer Rose Max was a complete surprise: intense, and a master of phrasing. Her vocal on Incompatibilidade de Genios is electric and would make a fantastic duet with the song’s composer, Joao Bosco–one of those duets that, in a concert, would bring the house down with people cheering wildly. I plan to open our next Cantinho Brasileiro no Radio on WRCT-FM (Pittsburgh) with this kick-butt track! There is so much delicate beauty here, too; personal favorites are Comecar de Novo and Some Other Time. This CD is just a joy and takes a high place in my 400+ collection of Brazilian CDs. I discovered Don through Beatriz Malnic, a superb Brazilian vocalist who performs in Miami and is associated with the Antonio Adolfo music school, along with her Brazilian Voices, a 40-member all-female group that does the Brazilian songbook. Check out CDs by Beatriz and the Voices, too–also great stuff!

Ali Darvish said:   October 29th, 2013 8:13 amDr. Wilner is the greatest teacher I’ve ever had not only on upright bass but also on cello. He is easily among the top teachers you’ll ever meet. I am able to support my family and make a decent living playing music thanks for this guy

Alan Satz said:   October 28th, 2013 9:40 amWOW, you are a gas..Heard you on cd w/Eddie Higgins and James Martin(he’s a friend).Your arco knocked me out…Danny Boy,really! alan

Stan Musick said:   October 28th, 2013 9:36 amHey Don, This is Stan Musick and the other night on the radio I heard a wonderful recording of you and Mike Renzi. I had no idea that you had become such an accomplished musician. I remember in the early 80’s you came and sat in with a duo I was working with at Grove isle and at that point I had the feeling that this young man had the determination and willingness to progress…and you sure have. I’m 84 now but in great health and I would like you to let me know when you are appearing so I can catch you in person. Stan

Danny Lopatka said:   October 28th, 2013 9:34 amHey Don My name is Danny Lopatka and i’m a bass performance major at the University of Illinois @ Chicago. You don’t know me, but probably about a year ago, my parents were on a trip in Miami and they heard you play. When they came back, my mom gave me your CD “Figments of my Imagination” and said i should check you out. Unfortunately, i didn’t get around to listening to it in its entirety until a few months ago, BUT let me tell you, i think it’s an absolutely wonderful record. Your playing reminds me a lot of Chicago’s Larry Gray, and he’s one of my heros. If i’m ever down your way, or your up mine, i’d love to take a lesson. Thanks for creating -Danny Lopatka 

Andrew Anglin said:   October 28th, 2013 9:32 amHey it’s Andrew, the Lynn double bassist who sat in with you and Gabe for the Symphony of the Americas concert a few weeks back. I wanted to write to you to tell you that your Figments Of My Imagination album was incredible. That was seriously some of the most impressive bass playing that I’ve heard in a long time. The tone of the bass alone blew me away. Amazing rhythm section playing man, seriously. The solos……..Holy S#@! man, I would hope to get a lesson in jazz bass improvisation from you, it’s only classical studies here at Lynn, but I would love to learn how to solo the way you did on your album. The arco playing was a great touch to the album, loved all the lyrical phrasing and sweet vibrato. The ponticello tremolos you had were really well placed. The band you had on the album sounded so professional, amazing players, what a great group you had for your album. I’m suprised that this album isn’t distributed on a jazz record label, every song sounded pro man. I’m not one to over-praise anybody to make them feel good, but your album was the real deal. Thank you so much for giving me a copy of it. As promised, I will make a copy for Katie and Jeff. My best to Gabe, it was a blast playing with you guys, I hope to play in your section again soon.  

Coco Rouzier said:   October 28th, 2013 9:27 amEvery down beat with you, Don Wilner, has been great because of your “in the pocket” playing style and your deep respect for the music. Thank you!

Mark Bruce Hurwitz said:   October 27th, 2013 10:25 pmDon not only is an accomplished musician, he has made great strides in promoting and keeping jazz alive for the masses. Thanks Don.

paul beck said:   October 27th, 2013 6:45 pmI was with Don when he was starting out. Even then he had a thirst and desire to be the best. To learn every intricacy of his craft. Without a doubt one of the hardest working musicians in his field.

Rafael Valencia said:   October 27th, 2013 4:14 pmDon is a fantastic musician a world class bass player !!

Beatriz Malnic said:   October 23rd, 2013 7:50 amI worked with Don for several years and working with him was very educational. He is a complete artist and educator, he really knows what he is doing. It’s a pleasure working and studying with him! I truly recommend lessons with him!

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