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Billy Jenkins

- the critics get excited!

Guardian Guide
Evening Standard Hot Tickets
Leicester Mercury
Metro North East

- the critics get excited - and even get very upset!

The Guardian
The Glasgow Herald
Leicester Mercury
Wakefield Express

NEWS ARCHIVE!!........

Glasgow Herald feature....Free single dowload....Farewell to Leeds Jazz.....Entertainment Licensing Update.......Hysteria, Fear & Live Music.....More Live Music Legislation.....BBC Ban Billy....Songs of Praise CD....BBC Apologise To Billy....Great 'Here Is The Blues!' Review...and much more. 

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Billy Jenkins has released (or it's escaped) a new album to accompany this weekly August season at the Blue Elephant, Blues Zero Two. It carries on this unique guitarist's personal blues journey to the dark heartland of Bromley - when the ubiquitous train-imagery of the American version appears in Jenkins' world, he's got the blues because the train's running three hours late. Jenkins' guitar-playing sounds like nobody else's on the planet, an unceremonious collision of punk, blues and noise - and if his voice wouldn't give BB King any sleepless nights (well, not out of jealousy, anyway), it's a gutturally effective, raucously indignant vehicle for the mixture of fury, bafflement and incredulity with which he confronts the world he lives in.
Jenkins is satirical, savage, hilarious and terrifying, and his evolution from the world of 1970s dockland pubs via Alexei Sayle's and Rik Mayall's Comic Strip to an implacable independence as a surreal performer and producer has been one of the more heartening acts of defiance of recent years.

John Fordham

©2002 Guardian Newspapers 10.8.02

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There's an area somewhere between high art and low farce where Billy Jenkins reigns not only supreme but unchallenged. Who else qualifies not only for jazz but also comedy reviews?
'He's well on the way to becoming a national treasure', said Jazz Review. Bruce Dessau [Standard Comedy critic] had better hurry.
The bard of Bromley (remember the Suburbia album and 'Coke Cans In Yer Garden'?) recently converted from jazz to blues.
'Jazz should be an adjective, not a verb,' he explained.
'Marketed as a noun, it stops doing what it should do'.
So his Voice of God Collective became Blues Zero Two, and this month he returns to his deep-South London roots. A weekly series at Camberwell's Blue Elephant Theatre will promote his new album, which is also called Blues Zero Two, and issued on his own Voice Of The People label. Billy may be comical, but he's not daft.
Public spiritedly, there's even talk of a Met Police mobile internet cafe rolling up to his gigs, to teach at-risk youngsters in the 11 to 15 age group something about civic responsibilities through the blues.
'Apparently there's a roll-up known as a Camberwell carrot,' explained Billy, ever the lyricist.

Jack Massarik

©2002 Associated Newspapers 16.8.02

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You'd have to be mad to miss him and, of course, you would have to be mad to see him.

It’s a mystery to me why Billy Jenkins didn’t feature in the BBC Great Briton shortlist. Guitarist and professional thorn-in-the-side Billy (motto: “music not business”) has been upsetting the over-serious since he joined art-rock band Burlesque in the 1970s.

Maybe no-one knows what to make of him. His excellent website says he’s been compared to over 130 other people, among them Keith Moon, Keith Floyd and the Brain of Morbius. Oh, and he’s taught at the Royal Academy of Music and recorded jingles for Mastercard…

His CDs have titles like In the Nude and Still Sounds Like Bromley, and he appears at the Y Theatre with his current band The Blues Collective on Friday 15 November.

“All music is music” he says, and if that sounds a bit head-scratchingly serious, be reassured: a night out with Billy is very funny – in a weird and scary sort of way.

I first saw Jenkins in the 1980s, and I’m as flummoxed as the rest when it comes to explaining the wonder of his live performance. Just to add my two pennorth, imagine an angry Tommy Cooper playing punk guitar with a mad-for-it lounge band, and you’re getting close to the appeal of the Blues Collective.

To be this crazy you have to be really, really good. As the man says “you got to play straight to really play wonky”, and the Collective is an ear-stretchingly imaginative band.

Their last couple of shows in Leicester sold out. If Status Quo is your idea of the blues, you are not going to have fun. Otherwise, trust me, you want to be there.

Nick Jones

©2002 Leicester Mercury/Nick Jones

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Billy Jenkins has no credentials for being a blues performer at all. Born in Bromley, Kent, the young William Jenkins sang in choirs at Westminster and St Paul's cathedrals. He next emerged in a jazz-art-rock band called Burlesque, which gave birth to the comedy double act, The Fantastic Trimmer And Jenkins, in 1979. His absurdist brand of humour found a welcome home at The Comic Strip, where is contemporaries were Alexei Sayle and Rik Mayall.
    From here, he graduated to free jazz - executed with a showmanship that was unusual for the genre. He persuaded the best free jazz players to take part in musical sparring contests - complete with a referee and five minute rounds. Since 1995, Jenkins' pet project has been his band, The Blues Collective.
    Naturally, he approaches the blues from an unconventional angle. Jenkins deforms, excavates and implodes the form. He strips away the phoney stuff and transforms it into something English, domestic and mordant.
There's also unexpected tenderness in the Collective's last LP, sadtimes.co.uk. Here, a middle-aged family man finds solace in life's mundane pleasures; a bottle of Sainbury's recommended wine and cool jazz on the stereo is about as good as it gets.
    Blues Zero Two, the group's latest offering, continues in this vein, with Jenkins trying to get out of shopping (I'm Staying In The Car) and worrying about his weight (Don't Eat That Cake). It's blues music for here and now, and it's wickedly, incomparably funny. Dylan Bate's highly effective fiddle-scraping really milks the pathos.

Mike Butler

©2002 Metro Newspapers/Mike Butler

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Let's start with a brilliant critique from James Griffiths.
Good 'bad' press is healthy and Billy J stimulates! 
O.K., it was a bad day at the office - but the 'office' was very noisy, the soundman got a bit too excited with the repeat echo button, it was rather late in the evening and BJ was rather exhausted from performing Huw Warren's Buster Keaton score........


The Guardian

Gregson, Lancaster 
James Griffiths
Tuesday September 23, 2003

This year, the Lancaster jazz festival offered a double helping of Billy Jenkins. The maverick British guitarist initially appeared as part of Huw Warren's Creative Jazz Orchestra, contributing batty guitar licks to a live soundtrack for the Buster Keaton film Steamboat Bill, Jr. He then launched into a wilfully ramshackle solo performance. 
Described by the Penguin Guide to Jazz as "one of our national treasures", Jenkins does not look like a man who would appreciate such a compliment. Hunched over his guitar at the Gregson, he exuded an air of jokey self-loathing. He didn't seem to want or expect applause, frequently cutting a song off in mid-flow in order to regale us with half-funny stories about his senile father. And when he sang, he sounded like a morbidly depressed Captain Beefheart. 

His guitar playing combined seasoned jazz virtuosity with the fret-abuse common to teenage blues-metal fans. "I hate these modern jazz singers like Diana Krall," he spat before launching into a pastiche of a banal jazz standard spliced with screeches of punk gee-tar. He then thrust the microphone into his mouth, a lewd gesture that was used by comedian Bill Hicks to convey hatred for corporate pop stars. The audience reacted with a mixture of delight, distaste and bafflement.

As a performer and musician, Jenkins sends out mixed signals. He is at once rude and genial, engaging and obscure. Here, his act seemed neither wholly serious nor entirely comical. He certainly had enough technique and knowledge at his disposal to offer an illuminating crash course in 20th-century guitar styles. Thelonious Monk tunes were pared down to Lightning Hopkins-like shuffles, while vintage rockabilly licks received an injection of Joe Satriani speed metal. But it was all delivered with such scrappy off-handedness that the overriding impression was of some bloke messing around with a guitar at a drunken party. 

Jenkins takes decades of musical evolution and fuses them into a hit-and-miss cabaret act laced with a bit of cack-handed clowning. The result was a patter of polite applause for a man who, with his talent, has the potential to make the most hardened audience clamour for more. 

 © 2003 Guardian Newspapers/James Griffiths


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The Glasgow Herald


Billy Jenkins And The Blues Collective, Spiegeltent, Glasgow

Rob Adams

The Royal Bank Glasgow Jazz Festival's Sunday afternoon programme threw up possibly the widest musical contrast possible, and all from within the boundary of the M25: from blues dementia from the Deep South of Bromley to the consummate craftsmanship of The Tron Theatre's guests, Ordesa.
True to the bluesman's worst nightmare, Billy Jenkins didn't wake up this morning. It was afternoon, he had the Spiegeltent audience in his bedroom and things were about to get worse. Soon his drummer was phoning his agent to re-negotiate his contract and his violinist's name kept changing, from Vanessa Mae to Stephane Grappelli and so on. 
Meantime, The Girl From Ipanema was invading Jenkins's guttural, growled tales of bad luck and trouble and festival guests from George Benson onwards were taking possession of his guitar solos. Utter madness from start to finish and superb entertainment from a wayward master of the woebegone. 

© 2003Glasgow Herald/Rob Adams

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Y Theatre  15 November 2002

“It’s great to be back in the De Montfort Hall…it’s shrunk a bit.” Billy Jenkins is off, with his mix of broad comedy and deep seriousness, playing mad, bad, great guitar, fingers scrabbling the frets like a frightened crab.

The Blues Collective look like the band from a sleazy hotel on the backstreets of hell: violinist Dylan Bates staring blankly at the ceiling, guitarist Rick Bolton and bassist Thad Kelly poker faced and static, drummer Mike Pickering kicking up a dangerous beat while complaining, inexplicably, that he can smell burning.

Occasionally they lurch to their feet to play startling, imaginative solos, and at one stage join their leader in an unconvincing chorus line. This is tremendous music, not so much recreating the blues as reinventing them in defiantly oddball style, with wit, intelligence and great playing.

From “Don’t eat that cake” to “Jazz had a baby (and they called it avant garde)”, the Blues Collective leave you with a broad grin on your face and some hope for the world.

Is it blues? Is it jazz? Does anyone really care? If you love music – as opposed to buying the latest big thing – you should have been there.

Nick Jones

©2002 Leicester Mercury/Nick Jones

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Wakefield Jazz Club 1st November 2002

Cruising for a blues-ing

There's Alec Sykes, minding his own business announcing the raffle prizes, when a wild-eyed figure in a ragbag dinner suit stamps across the floor, barges Alec out the way and plonks himself down in the corner, there to extract random squawks from a guitar. Welcome to the weird world of Planet Jenkins.
    How to sum up Billy Jenkins in fewer than five pages? Looking like a dishevelled cross between Freddie Starr and Father Jack, Billy and his Blues Collective dish up classic blues sounds shipped direct from the deep south USA, blended with lyrical observations from deep south London and marinated in pure surrealism.
    Insulting the band, heckling the audience, grappling with a flying mouth organ and a temperamental guitar (he told us that it's finding it hard to give up smoking), Billy Jenkins mixes 24-carat musicianship with manic activity and crazy flights of verbal fancy. Songs that start in conventional fashion dissolve into impromptu tirades against mime artists, railway staff and organised religion, before the threads are suddenly picked up again 10 minutes later. Bonkers. They're songs like Down In The Deep Freeze, charting the tedium of working in Tesco; This Is A Day To Forget, recounting a typical nightmare train journey; Don't Eat That Cake, lamenting the martyrdom of the calorie counter; and the tour de force of Cliff Richard Spoke To Me (he said "Hi" apparently).
    For all his magnetic persona, however, Billy could not function without his collective. A rhythm section of brick outhouse solidity provides the platform from which Dylan Bates weaves spells on an electrified violin and Richard Bolton engages in stinging guitar duels with Mr Jenkins himself. Strip away the crackpot cabaret and the Billy Jenkins Blues Collective would still be a class act - but not half as much fun.
    I only hope Billy's care in the community team look after him well, because they've an authentic national treasure on their hands.
    Tonight at Wakefield Jazz Club it's back to sanity with the Peter King Quartet.

David Pickersgill

©2002 Wakefield Express/David Pickersgill 

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