Billy Jenkins

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Biography of Billy Jenkins


'The wayward master of the woebegone'

Rob Adams,Glasgow Herald

'Billy Jenkins has the priceless ability to merge serious music making with absolute lunacy, and make one feed off the creative energy of the other.

Kenny Mathieson, The Scotsman

These sentences encapsulate an exciting and stimulating musician whose compositions challenge existing conventions. Critical comparisons range from Carl Stalling to Groucho Marx! He describes his music as 'Spazz', or alternatively as 'New Rage Music.'

A three-page review of his work (over 20 releases on his VOTP label) in the second edition of the Penguin Guide to Jazz (1994) refers to him as 'a musical anarchist' and indeed describes one of his albums, 'Greenwich', as 'one of the most distinctive British albums of the 1980s'.

Billy Jenkins began his career as a professional rock musician at age 14 (most notably with the group Burlesque) . He started moving away from this style at around the time of his work with drummer Ginger Baker in 1980, followed by work with the Comic Strip, such as Ben Elton and Alexei Sayle. In September 1995, he was one of the main featured artists at a 10 day 'London meets Vienna' festival, along with many of the finest young British musicians, such as Django Bates and Steve Arguelles. The 1995 Bath Literature Festival commissioned poems from as varied as Ivor Cutler and Andrew Davies to complement his 'Entertainment USA'. This was followed by a further collaboration in 1996 and a commission with Kate Pullinger in 1997.

In 1981 Billy Jenkins formed The Voice of God Collective. The ensemble usually performs as a five piece, with saxophone, keyboard, bass and drums. It has now performed widely such as festivals in Hungary, Germany, Austria, Italy and Canada. A collaboration between Billy, the Voice Of God Collective rhythm section and the German quartet The Fun Horns of Berlin undertook an Arts Council CMN tour of the UK in early 1996. The first release by this group drew reviews such as 'fantastic' from BBC Radio 3's Mixing It and 'His best release yet' from WDR Radio in Cologne. His regularly established 'seasons' at the Vortex in London included 'Choir Practices' in 1994 'Football Training Sessions' in 1995. In August 1995, he co-ordinated a 'Summer Fashion Show'.

Big Fights are another of Billy Jenkins' projects. Musical boxing rounds are set up against various percussionists and drummers (such as Steve Noble, Steve Arg´┐Żelles and Thebe Lipere). It's a great crowd pleaser complete with referee. This venture has been widely performed at festivals in Austria, Belgium, Eire, Germany, Wales and Britain.

Billy has also been a regular member of a rock-jazz improvising trio, The Shakedown Club (Babel BDV9403), with Steve Noble and Roberto Bellatalla and of Blue Moon In a Function Room (Babel BDV9402), a quartet led by drummer Steve Arg´┐Żelles, playing unusual variants on jazz standards - shopping centres and flower shows a speciality!

From the mid 1990s he mostly focused on the blues, citing 'jazz' as a 'restricted formula on account of media presumption'. He finds greater freedom in the blues, describing it as 'free form jazz over a three chord safety net'.

At the 2010 London Jazz Festival, he performed with the BBC Big Band playing his music arranged by long time VOGC saxophonist Iain Ballamy but since then, he has ceased travelling and performing due to the demands of creating and conducting humanist funerals.


Billy makes records to listen to.
They are made with real musicians.
Reward yourself some set aside time to place a comfy chair stereo centre, have favoured liquid or pipe of peace to hand and give yourself to the music.

Billy does not mean to hurt you. This is real music. If you have seen Billy live onstage you may think,this recording isnt as good as the live experience but the truth is, studio documentation is very different to playing live.

As Billy drones on time and time again:
Performance is performance and recordings are recordings.

In other words, Billy deals in truth and reality. He sees both mediums as quite separate entities.
Most musicians are obliged to perform to promote a release. But why reproduce a replica when playing music in a new room, club or concert hall with all the spontaneous excitement of acoustics and audience interaction to explore and enjoy. Likewise, could you really accommodate Shirley Bassey, a 21 piece orchestra (and all associated ramifications) in your 14 foot square front room!?

Billy's records are also carefully crafted and programmed mindful of related pitch, instrumentation and tempo. No thought is given to what tracks might be radio friendly, for Billy does not like broadcast sound! Many music fans are not aware of the compression of sound used to maximise broadcast source signal. There is probably a loss of 10 to 15% of low and top end and thus increase in mid range frequency, which explains how popular music has developed into such a restricted formula.

This is why you rarely hear Billy's music on radio or television. He has little interest in it being played sounding 'wrong'. Broadcasting only serves to publicise. He is, of course, delighted and flattered if something is broadcast but more so that it may bring in a few pounds so he can continue his documentation of musical people.

Likewise, advertising is just showing off. With the funds required to penetrate even specialised markets far outweighing the return, Billy has to rely on word of mouth as the only upright and ethical way to encourage the curious to explore his music. And by purchasing a Jenkins recording, you are doing just that whilst helping Billy to continue his life's work.

We hope the music affects you and that you may wish to explore Billy's aural art further. Some of the releases are quite diverse due to differing instrumentation, personnel and subject matter.

And so they should be.


There are two web sites of interest:

www.billyjenkins.com - for all the latest news and links to the Billy Jenkins Listening Club podcasts and archive Webzine.

www.sadtimes.co.uk - a locked site full of Billy's blues.

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