Life

COMPOSERS: Billy Jenkins
LABELS: VOTP
ALBUM TITLE: Billy Jenkins
PERFORMER: Billy Jenkins (g, vc), Dylan Bates (vn), Richard Bolton (g), Thad Kelly (b), Mike Pickering (d)
CATALOGUE NO: VOCD 023 (distr. 01653 668494; www.billyjenkins.com)

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Madcap London-based guitarist Billy Jenkins has evolved from a fringe avant-garde player to a (sub)urban bluesman. But jazz continues to claim him as one of its own. His residency at North London’s Vortex club is an essential part of the circuit. Why? Not simply because he is crackers, but also because he won’t conform musically.

With his Blues Collective (all jazzmen) he takes raw blues material, tears it up into shreds, and then reassembles it in a more interesting, not always idiom-correct, form. It comes out as demented, part-improvised, pub rock. This set of new, original compositions, described by Jenkins as secular gospel, concerns issues such as life, death, his first day at nursery school, getting a bike pinched and granny falling down the stairs.

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The group retains its trademark scratchy, treble-turned-up sound. But Jenkins’s exquisitely excruciating guitar solos, which skid and swerve unpredictably, are matched by sheets of sound from the electric violin of Dylan Bates. The Collective’s vocal choir seems to be modelled on the execrable Mike Sammes Singers. It’s not nice and it’s not clever. Thank goodness. Garry Booth