A gifted guitarist versed in funky Soul Jazz and steaming Hard Bop, Mark Whitfield's fingers dance across his warm-toned hollow body guitar, disregarding technical limitations with an ear for tasty Bop phrasing. Like his mentor George Benson (who helped him get his breakthrough gig with organist Jack McDuff), he's got chops galore. But, thankfully, he hasn't sold out. His albums True Blue and 7th Ave. Stroll are excellent examples of modern, straight-ahead jazz and distinctly New York-flavored Hard Bop, as shown in his beautiful rendition of "Harlem Nocturne." Session work keeps Whitfield busy between solo albums: He's played spots on Jimmy Smith releases, collaborated with new lions Christian McBride and Nicholas Payton, contributed band work on Robert Altman's film Kansas City, and even performed studio work with R&B singer D'Angelo.