John Jenkins was a little-known Welsh saxophonist, who played an alto carved from virgin anthracite hewn from deep within the loins of the Rhondda Valley. He burned brightly during 1957.
OK, fabrications and cheap lines dispensed with now. Of course he wasn’t from Wales and I don’t believe anybody has yet been daft enough to try to make a saxophone out of coal but 1957 very definitely was his year. This set was his sole outing as a leader on Blue Note, although he had, a couple of weeks earlier, led another excellent session featuring Clifford Jordan and Bobby Timmons which was released on New Jazz.
Born in Chicago in 1931, he studied at the same High School as Clifford Jordan, Johnny Griffin and John Gilmore (later to spend much of his career with Sun Ra), before paying his musical dues and later playing for a brief period with Charles Mingus. After moving to New York in March 1957, he made his Blue Note debut as a sideman on Hank Mobley’s Hank (BN 1560).
This set offers an opportunity to hear John Jenkins supported by a stellar cast of Burrell, Chambers and Clark, with erstwhile tenor saxophonist Richmond on drums. It is a really engaging combination of hard bop and standard tracks.
Opening with a version of Cole Porter’s From This Moment On, taken at a brisk pace but with an extended solo played with control by Jenkins, the alto man sets out his stall, before Burrell and later Clark show off their refined skills.
Motif is a self-penned hard bop composition, again featuring great discipline and form from Jenkins and subtlety from Burrell.
Everything I Have Is Yours is a delicate ballad ‘…that has not been overdone’, in the sleeve note words of Ira Gitler.
Next track up is Sharon, named after John Jenkins daughter. It features a short bass solo from Mr PC, Paul Chambers. There’s a YouTube clip provided by JckDupp for you to listen to
Press or click on the arrow to play.
Chalumeau closes the original set. It is a jaunty tune, in honour of the single-reeded forerunner of the clarinet
The first bonus track on the CD is a Kenny Burrell composition, Blues For Two, with more delightful playing from Clark and Burrell and bowed double bass from Chambers. The CD also offers up stereo takes of Sharon and Chalumeau, which will, doubtless be of interest to some contributors to this linked post over at London Jazz Collector
My copy is a CD reissued as part of the Blue Note Connoisseur series, which is easy enough to get hold of, if a little more pricy than average.
John Jenkins dropped out of the active music scene after 1962, working as a messenger in New York and producing jewellery and dealing in brass objects at street markets in the 1970s. After 1983 he began practicing again and playing live on street corners. There’s an Internet comment which offers a fleeting personal impression of this artist.
I got a chance to hang & play with alto player, John Jenkins, at the old Augies, back in the early 90s, a few years before he passed away. He was a super nice guy. Always happy to be up there, playing.
After the early 1960’s, he sort of got lost in the shuffle & stopped playing music in public, for quite a while. Sometime in the 80’s, Harold Mabern ran into him at an OTB (Off Track Betting–now they are all gone, btw) & convinced him to get out & start playing again, which he did, until his death, in 1993 (I think it was 93, maybe 94)
So there we have it, one to seek out and enjoy.
The band etc: John Jenkins (alto saxophone); Kenny Burrell (guitar); Sonny Clark (piano); Paul Chambers (bass); Dannie Richmond (drums). Recorded: 11 August 1957 Rudy Van Gelder Studio, Hackensack, New Jersey. Produced: Alfred Lion. Recording: Rudy Van Gelder. Cover photos: Francis Wolff. Cover Re-design: Patrick Roques. Sleeve notes: Ira Gitler. Originally issued as Blue Note 1573.