Friday, June 11, 2010

Billy Jenkins - Beyond E Major (1985)

Here's a musician whose work I've only just begun to explore. Billy Jenkins has been plugging away, doing his own thing since at least the early 80s. He seems to be almost entirely unknown outside England, and not terribly well known in it. He is what the English would politely call "an eccentric" or, what others might less politely describe as "bonkers."
I saw him perform back in 1994 or '95 at a small festival at Sadler's Wells theatre in London. I came to see Jack DeJohnette, Carla Bley and Anthony Braxton (er, sharing the bill, that is, not in the same band) but, as is the nature of such events, caught some interesting acts of whom I was entirely ignorant.
Billy Jenkins played with his group (I can't remember whether he was calling it the Voice of God Collective at that time) and the Fun Horns of Berlin. He loped around the stage with his guitar, hair flapping around, like a British jazz version of Neil Young, playing songs with titles like 'Fat People,' 'Greenwich One Way System' and 'Benidorm Motorway Services.' Frequently, he would interrupt the band mid-song with a cry of "Jurassic Park!" which would prompt the band to play a few bars from the Jurassic Park film theme, before returning to the song in progress. I think (though I might be imagining this) that the punchline to this running joke involved the German horn section tut-tutting at Billy's command to play the theme from Schindler's List). I thought "this guy's great," but never bothered to investigate his recordings.
Years later, I came across his name in the Penguin Guide to Jazz Recordings and thought I should check him out. Many of his albums are still available, whether on CD or for download on his website (which contains more information about Billy than I could possibly give), but this one seems to have disappeared from the catalogue. It's an instrumental trio recording (augmented by a horn section) of Billy's compositions, apparently intended to illustrate themes he'd explored in a column he wrote in the music press at the time. I still think "this guy's great" and hope to explore his catalogue further (I have four of his albums as of this writing). I think he's deserving of wider recognition too, beyond what I assume to be something of a cult following in England (including, of course, the surviving Penguin Guide to Jazz Recordings guy).

A1: Country and Western (7:18)
A2: The Blues (8:19)
B1: Heavy Metal (9:06)
B2: Rock and Roll (7:45)

Billy Jenkins - Guitar
Steve Berry - Double Bass
Roy Dodds - Drumkit

accompanied by:
John Eacott - Trumpet
Steve Buckley - Tenor Saxophone
John Harborne - Trombone

One Two Testing label, 1985. Cat # ALMS 1

Links removed by request (see comments below)
Please visit Billy online at 
...where he has published several new archival releases for download (though not, as far as I can see, this one yet).