Billy Jenkins

billy jenkins al fresco 2

Billy Jenkins is responsible for much journalistic willy-waving. Music critics tend to use him as a linguistic ordnance test, competing to encapsulate his raging idiosyncrasy in the pithiest, showiest, most OTT way imaginable. This is a man who has been variously dubbed ‘a combination of Woody Allen, Tony Hancock and Keith Floyd’, ‘the Victor Meldrew of avant-garde jazz ‘ and ‘the musical equivalent of Duchamp’s moustachioed Mona Lisa”. Elsewhere, he’s been likened to Vic Reeves, Telly Savallas, Tommy Cooper, Duane Eddy, Duke Ellington and Debussy.

Billy Jenkins is probably the closest thing we have to a British Zappa. He bombards his fanatical listenership with a combination of satire, improvisation, melancholia, cynicism, anti-commercialism, top-drawer musicianship and humour. Both men explore the spikier sides of jazz and blues while refusing to take it too seriously. And both apparently hate being compared to other artists. Presented with the frequently-used Zappa comparison, Jenkins spoke admiringly but briefly of Uncle Frank’s talents as a composer and arranger, dismissively skimmed over his guitar-playing ability before concluding that he was “a control freak, an excellent businessman and a capitalist. I am none of these things”.

Jenkins is a 55 year-old man from Bromley in Kent, the captain of the Francis Drake Bowls Club in Lewisham, and a magnificent live performer, which is a shame, since he’s now permanently off the road organising and conducting humanist funerals.

Here, performed in Belgium, is a shrieking atheistic blues number called ‘There Is No Lord Up There’, which nicely displays what Mr Jenkins is about.