Presented inhouse. Band: Whitfield, Victor Atkins, Roland Guerin, Donald Edwards. Reviewed Jan. 17, 1996. There isn’t any question that Mark Whitfield is a fine young guitar technician who has already proven himself in many situations. But his first set at the Bakery, initially hampered by a murky sound balance, emerged as an imitation of past masters with little of the shape and storytelling qualities of the originals. Thus left pretty much on his own, Whitfield fell back upon sprays of bebop licks all over the guitar with little coherence or direction. We mostly heard echoes of George Benson in the rapid patterns and machine-gun chords — and in “Harlem Nocturne,” Whitfield used his thumb to produce octaves and a soft round tone in the manner of his idol, Wes Montgomery. But without Benson’s rhythmic drive and without Montgomery’s melodic inventiveness and logic, all of this technique produced a mighty thin stew.
What Whitfield’s set could have used is some editing and more material; there weren’t enough good on-the-wing ideas to support only four tunes in 70 minutes. Either that or hope that a chemistry somehow ignites within this foursome.