1932 - 2007
Leroy Jenkins (1932 – 2007)was one of jazz’s boldest explorers of the violin’s and viola’s potential in non-classical music. Born on the Southside of Chicago, he was encourage by his musician mother to learn the clarinet alto saxophone, bassoon, violin, and viola as a child and at 10, was playing in the biggest Baptist church of the city, St. Luke’s. In addition to playing alto sax in high school, he joined the Ebenezer Baptist church choir and orchestra. He received his classical educations at Florida A & M University on bassoon. Once out of school, he worked as a R&B saxophonist and eventually became a high school violin teacher in Mobile, Alabama. Jenkins returned to Chicago in the 1960’s and became a prominent member of the Association of Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM), and created a trio with Anthony Braxton and Leo Smith, which lasted for six years. From there, he pursued the creation of his band Sting, producing jazz-funk music in avant-fusion manner. This brought Jenkins many commissions and opportunities for jazz-classical collaborations with names such as Anthony Davis, Bill T Jones, and Cecil Taylor. n the ‘70s and ‘80s Jenkins received major support for music composition with many grants and commissions for chamber ensemble, orchestra, dance, and theater from the National Endowment for the Arts, the New York Foundation for the Arts and the New York State Council for the Arts. During this period, in addition to touring as a soloist and with various instrumental groups under his leadership, his music was performed by the Brooklyn Philharmonic, the Albany Symphony, the Cleveland Chamber Symphony, the Kronos Quartet, the Dessoff Choirs, the Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble, the New Music Consort and Relache, among others. During the 1990’s, Jenkins reached the height of his compositional output. Active in on the board of the Composers Forum in New York, he produced the operas Mother of Three Sons, Fresh Faust, The Three Willie, and a cantata for the dead called The Negros Burial Ground. In 2003, he was awarded a composition grant from Harvard’s Fromm Foundation. In 2004, Jenkins was the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship. Throughout his career, Leroy Jenkins was known as a violin virtuoso and in his final album Solo, he demonstrated his creatively profound grasp of orthodox jazz structure, yet how eloquently he could live without it.