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Leroy Jenkins

Born in Chicago, composer and violinist Leroy Jenkins was one of the most important musicians to emerge from the AACM (Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians), the legendary collective of which he was a member until his death in 2007. Like many of the Association's members, Jenkins studied under the legendary Walter Dyett at DuSable High School, where he learned the alto saxophone.

He received a music degree (in violin) from Florida A&M University, where he studied composition and the classical masters of the violin. Subsequently, he taught music both in Mobile, Alabama (1961-5) and in the Chicago schools (1965-9). During the latter period, Jenkins joined the AACM. He made his first recording with Muhal Richard Abrams, Anthony Braxton, and Leo Smith in the sixties before achieving international acclaim in Paris along with Braxton, Smith, and the Art Ensemble of Chicago. In 1970 Jenkins moved to New York, where he founded the Revolutionary Ensemble, the critically acclaimed ensemble which recorded 7 albums and toured North America and Europe.

When many of the AACM musicians left during 1969, Jenkins went to Europe with Anthony Braxton & Leo Smith. There, with drummer Steve McCall, they were called the Creative Construction Company. He also played with Ornette Coleman, whose house he & Braxton stayed at when they subsequently moved to New York City.

Playing with Taylor (1970) and Braxton (1969-72), he also worked with Albert Ayler, Cal Massey, Alice Coltrane, Archie Shepp & Rahsaan Roland Kirk. Between 1971-7, he played in his Revolutionary Ensemble, a trio featuring Sirone (Norris Jones) on bass & trombone, and drummer/pianist Jerome Cooper. Thereafter, he toured the US & Europe, led the Mixed Quintet (Jenkins and 4 woodwind players), a blues-based band called Sting, and again played with Cecil Taylor.

Jenkins continually reinvented his own language in music. His was an extraordinary bonding of a variety of sounds associated with the black music tradition, while simultaneously bridging with European styles. His intermeshing of jazz and classical influences left critics wondering at his musical identity; however, as one San Francisco Chronicle critic said, "Jenkins is a master who cuts across all categories."

Jenkins received a number of major commissions and was in demand for experimental and theater-based work. Mother of Three Sons, a dance-opera collaboration with Bill T. Jones, premiered in Aachaen, Germany and had ten performances. The Rockefeller Foundation, National Endowment for the Arts, Meet the Composer, and Mutable Music awarded him numerous commissioning funds and grants to support several new theater works. Among them are Fresh Faust (a jazz-rap opera), which was performed in workshops in Boston at the Institute of Contemporary Arts; The Negro Burial Ground (a cantata), performed at The Kitchen, New York City; and The Three Willies (a multimedia opera), performed at the Painted Bride, Philadelphia. He was also commissioned to create new works for the Brooklyn Philharmonic, the Cleveland Symphony Orchestra, the Albany Symphony, the Lincoln Center Out of Doors, and the Kronos Quartet.

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From Far and Wide

In Memoriam: Leroy Jenkins 1932-2007

Read "In Memoriam: Leroy Jenkins 1932-2007" reviewed by AAJ Staff

Leroy was a good friend of many years. He had a very positive outlook in life. It was always a joy to play with such an excellent musician. JOSEPH JARMAN, MULTI-INSTRUMENTALISTLeroy Jenkins was the first person I ever heard improvise on the violin....it was the mid '70s and it was at some church in the village...he started with a little motif, just a germ of an idea, and kept hacking away at it, from different angles, extending, compressing...he ...

Album Review

Leroy Jenkins: The Art of Improvisation

Read "The Art of Improvisation" reviewed by Rex  Butters

Leroy Jenkins' Driftwood rarely floats, but readily burns. In addition to the violinist leader, pianist Denman Maroney and percussionist Rich O'Donnell, Min Xiao-Fen joins on pipa, a four-stringed lute from 7th Century China. A classically trained musician, Xiao-Fen began improvising with the encouragement of John Zorn, Wadada Leo Smith and Derek Bailey. The quartet roils with sound and ideas, frequently creating tones and timbres that seem anything but acoustic.

Jenkins and Xiao-Fen lead the momentum on “To Live, with O'Donnell ...

Album Review

Leroy Jenkins: Space Minds, New Worlds, Survival of America

Read "Space Minds, New Worlds, Survival of America" reviewed by Rex  Butters

The reactivation of the Tomato label comes as good news. What other imprint could boast a roster that included Doc Watson, John Cage, Townes Van Zandt, Harry Partch, and Sam Rivers? Now add Leroy Jenkins with his reissued title from 1978, Space Minds, New Worlds, Survival of America. That this quarter century old artifact sounds as fresh as it does testifies to the vision of its creators.

The all star band includes Andrew Cyrille on drums, a young Anthony Davis ...

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Performance / Tour

Vandermark 5 + Leroy Jenkins/Myra Melford/Kahil El'Zabar at The Cinema in Philadelphia

Vandermark 5 + Leroy Jenkins/Myra Melford/Kahil El'Zabar at The Cinema in Philadelphia

Source: All About Jazz

Ars Nova Workshop presents: Tonight. Thursday, February 2 | 8pm VANDERMARK 5 with Ken Vandermark, reeds; Dave Rempis, saxophone; Fred Lonberg-Holm, cello; Kent Kessler, bass; and Tim Daisy, drums

The Cinema (formerly CineMagic) | 3925 Walnut Street $12 General Admission MacArthur fellow Ken Vandermark formed the Vandermark 5 nearly 10 years ago as an outlet for the concepts he developed over the years working with NRG Ensemble, the Peter Brotzmann Chicago Tentet, and ALLY. During the ...


Performance / Tour

651 Presents Leroy Jenkins' "Coincidents: A multi-media opera-in-progress" at Long Island University's Kumble Theater

651 Presents Leroy Jenkins' "Coincidents: A multi-media opera-in-progress" at Long Island University's Kumble Theater

Source: All About Jazz

Coincidents: a multi-media opera-in-progress Composed by Leroy Jenkins and Written by Mary Griffin At Long Island University's Kumble Theater for the Performing Arts, February 10, 2006

“Leroy Jenkins is continually inventing his own musical language...with the black music tradition, while simultaneously bridging with European styles." (The San Francisco Chronicle)

Brooklyn, New York -- 651 ARTS presents the second installation of Coincidents: a multi-media opera-in-progress composed by Leroy Jenkins and written by Mary Griffin, at Long Island ...



Recordings: As Leader | As Sideperson




The Art of...

Mutable Music


Space Minds, New...

Tomato Records



Lovely Music


Themes &...




Ornette Coleman
saxophone, alto
Albert Ayler
saxophone, tenor
Evan Parker
saxophone, soprano
Steve Lacy
saxophone, soprano
Joe McPhee
Sam Rivers
saxophone, tenor
David S. Ware
saxophone, tenor
Frank Wright
saxophone, tenor
Art Ensemble Of Chicago
band / ensemble / orchestra

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