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Billy Jenkins: True Love Collection

Roger Farbey By

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A few facts to dispense with first. True Love Collection now reissued as a download-only release, coincided with this album, originally released in 1998, being voted number 36 in BBC Music Jazz's 50 greatest jazz albums, announced in mid-November 2016 to coincide with the start of the London Jazz Festival. It's also been re- mixed and consolidated into seven discrete tracks as opposed to the 16 tracks on the original CD release. However, the order and music is identical.

Following the opening "Invocation I" a slinky, bluesy intro which emulates the feel of Bitches Brew, the band launches without warning into Donovan Leitch's hippy anthem "Mellow Yellow" where Jenkins plays it fairly straight, singing a duet with Christine Tobin, Iain Ballamy contributing some lucid soprano sax. "Invocation II" involves some electric noodling, relaxed tenor sax and a generally threatening mood before segueing into The Carpenter's "Yesterday Once More" and only Jenkins can get away with a clown's car horn incessantly embellishing this romantic number. Gentle lampooning mixed with icon-busting irreverence is pervasive within this album.

By the time we hear Harry Nilsson's "Everybody's Talking" and the Bee Gees's "How Deep Is Your Love" it's obvious that Jenkins works, simultaneously, on several levels. One of the aims is surely to puncture the inherent poe-faced-ness of the jazz cabaret circuit. Frank Zappa did this with "America Drinks And Goes Home" as did the Bonzo Dog Band with "I Left My Heart In San Francisco." But on another level the songs work by removing the schmaltz and leaving Jenkins's gravel-infused vocals juxtaposed with Tobin's sublime ones. Simon and Garfunkel's "The 59th Street Bridge Song" here known by its parenthetic subtitle "Feelin' Groovy" is given a conventional treatment albeit with atmospheric instrumental effects.

Throughout, Jenkins takes some of the most memorable love songs of the 1960s and 70s and transmogrifies them. Interspersed between the songs are instrumentals bearing parodical titles subtly saluting Coltrane's A Love Supreme and these interludes are often surprisingly serious. Take Jenkins's guitar solo on "Invocation VI" which segues into a barnstorming instrumental version of "Sunny." This is immediately succeeded by "Invocation VII," an Isaac Hayes-like heavy funk section, as if to provide contextual background to the periods to which the album refers and offers Iain Ballamy the opportunity to shine on meaty tenor sax.

Tobin's spectacular vocals on "Dancing In The Street" are worthy of Martha Reeves herself and the album concludes with an elegant "Consummation" from Iain Ballamy. Indisputably, Jenkins takes an iconoclastic stance, but simultaneously preserves the integrity of the originals. This is taking a slightly different tac to his overtly hilarious version of The Carpenter's "Close To You," thankfully available on YouTube and which originally appeared on his 1995 CD East/West recorded with The Fun Horns Of Berlin and on that version self- deprecatingly entitled "(Not) Close To You." But whilst True Love Collection retains the concept of so-called Spaß (comedic) music, it also reveals that Jenkins is just an old romantic at heart.

Track Listing: Invocation I - Mellow Yellow; Invocation II - Yesterday Once More; Invocation III - Everybody's Talking; Invocation IV - How Deep Is Your Love; Invocation V - Feeelin' Groovy; Invocation VI - Sunny - Altercation; Invocation VII - Dancing In The Street - Consummation.

Personnel: Billy Jenkins: guitar, voice; Iain Ballamy: saxophones; Christine Tobin: voice; Django Bates: keyboards; Dave Ramm: keyboards; Steve Watts: double bass: Mike Pickering: outrider sidecar drums; Martin France: drumkit.

Title: True Love Collection | Year Released: 2016 | Record Label: VOTP

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