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Karl Jenkins: Penumbra II


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Karl Jenkins: Penumbra II
Multi-instrumentalist Sir Karl William Pamp Jenkins CBE (Commander of the Order of the British Empire) is a successful composer of classical, film and TV music. But before he went over to the Dark Side, the then plain old Karl Jenkins was a member of the Rebel Alliance and a pivotal presence in British jazz rock. He was a founding member of the pioneering Nucleus in 1969 and a member of Soft Machine from 1972 until the early 1980s.

Not-for-profit archaeological label Jazz In Britain has unearthed more than a few never-previously-released treasures in its time, and Jenkins' Penumbra II is another such nugget, standing up in its own right as a piece of music and also as a snapshot of a particular era. Recorded in summer 1971 for a BBC Radio broadcast, Jenkins' 29:35 three-part suite is an admiring response to Miles Davis's Bitches Brew (Columbia, 1970), and all the more remarkable for being performed live in real time, with no after-the-event Teo Maceroesque studio wizardry.

All the members of the ten-piece band except percussionist Frank Ricotti were at various times members of Nucleus, and are the cream of contemporaneous British jazz and jazz-rock: Jenkins, on piano, plus Ian Carr on flugelhorn, Brian Smith on soprano saxophone, Ray Warleigh on alto saxophone, Alan Skidmore on tenor saxophone, Chris Spedding on guitar, Dave MacRae on piano and electric piano, Roy Babbington on bass and bass guitar and John Marshall on drums.

After a 3:49 introduction, the main body of the piece, the 19:10 "Second Movement," kicks in. One cannot help but think of the expression "imitation is the sincerest form of flattery," for the music wears it debt to Bitches Brew not just on its sleeve but emblazoned on the back of its jacket, too. But it is more than that: Babbington's relentless bass ostinato, and the four-piece horn section, support three singular, extended solos, from Spedding, Warleigh and Smith, each of them compelling listening. The closing 5:36 "Third Movement," is a showcase for a ferocious Skidmore solo which owes little to rock and a lot to post-John Coltrane jazz.

Terrific stuff, replete with a liner booklet which includes a 2022 interview with Jenkins and previously unpublished photos of all the band members.

Track Listing

First Movement; Second Movement; Third Movement.


Karl Jenkins: keyboards; Ian Carr: trumpet; Brian Smith: saxophone, tenor; Ray Warleigh: saxophone, alto; Alan Skidmore: saxophone; Chris Spedding: guitar, electric; Dave MacRae: keyboards; Roy Babbington: bass, electric; John Marshall: trumpet; Frank Ricotti: vibraphone.

Album information

Title: Penumbra II | Year Released: 2022 | Record Label: Jazz In Britain

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