Leroy Jenkins, 1932-2007

jenkins.gifBernadette Speach has passed along to me the extremely sad news of the death, Saturday, from lung cancer, of violinist-composer Leroy Jenkins. He was just shy of his 75th birthday, but he never seemed old. Wiry, lively, young for his years, he was a comforting presence in the new-music world, with his raspily idiosyncratic but perfectly controlled violin tone that seemed as much at home floating up from the orchestra pit of his operas as in improvisations with Oliver Lake. Talking to him, you forgot after awhile that jazz and classical music had ever had their differences, he flowed between them with such fluid ease. He worked a lot with Muhal Richard Abrams and other AACM greats, but once told me a story about getting sick from all the decadent rich food during an extended weekend at Hans Werner Henze’s house. The music theater works of his that I was privileged to review, The Mother of Three Sons and The Negro Burial Ground, would be well worth reviving.

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  1. says

    Yoshi’s, Oakland, sometime in the late 80s, with Roberto Miranda on bass and a drummer whose name I don’t remember. A great show, the only time I have ever heard a violin-bass-drums trio. And Jenkins reminding me of Don Pullen in his range: from total jazz-funk groove to the pure abstract textures of the free jazz at its most “out.” A great memory, brought back, sadly, by LJ’s death.