Leroy Jenkins

Violinist Leroy Jenkins is rarely mentioned in the same breath as AACM heavies like Anthony Braxton, Muhal Richard Abrams, Roscoe Mitchell, or Henry Threadgill, but he’s their equal in many ways. Like many of the organization’s founders, the Chicago native studied under the legendary Walter Dyett at DuSable High, and after attending college in Florida and teaching music for four years in Mobile, Alabama, he became one of the earliest members. And though his formal inventiveness may not be as significant as some of his peers’, he’s an important innovator on his instrument. His best-known early work is on Braxton’s landmark 3 Compositions of New Jazz (Delmark, 1968), whose expansive pieces were well suited to Jenkins’s style. The brash swing of Stuff Smith–as opposed to the fluid lines of Stephane Grappelli–is a crucial element of his sound, but while Jenkins is a far more accomplished and fluid violinist than Ornette Coleman, Coleman’s freer approach to the violin in the early 60s is the key influence. With Braxton, Jenkins incorporated shards of the blues, truncated swing passages, and unadulterated sawing. His experiences with the AACM were certainly manifest in his Revolutionary Ensemble, a trio with bassist Sirone and percussionist Jerome Cooper that made five superb albums between 1971 and 1977. This group possessed an astonishing range, in not only its musical vocabulary, but also its flexibility in switching from collective improvisation to inspired soloing. In the last several decades Jenkins has led numerous small groups, from the Mixed Quintet–Jenkins with four woodwinds–to the blues-based string group Sting. Themes & Improvisations on the Blues (CRI, 1994) presents some of Jenkins’s notated music, which, as the album title suggests, features sections of improv. This solo performance is Jenkins’s first Chicago appearance in three years. Wednesday, 9 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western; 773-276-3600. PETER MARGASAK

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): uncredited photo.