If there's one man who will object more than most to having his name appear in a column with the word ?jazz? at its head, it?s Billy Jenkins.
The iconoclastic guitarist, singer and all-round pomposity-popper has been railing against jazz and all its downsides for years now.
Even though he has now become more firmly ensconced within the blues, he just can?t shake off the jazz fans. We must be a seriously masochistic lot: the more he insults us, the more we love the little rascal.
Mr Jenkins, as I am sure I would call him if we ever met, is not nearly as well known as he should be, so a little history is probably in order here. And wouldn?t a po-faced biog just drive the man wild? Ah, deep joy.
He was born in 1956, safe to assume in Bromley, since no one would surely be so obsessed with the ass-end of London if they hadn?t learned to walk and talk there.
According to a website from which I filched the following, he began his professional career in 1972 as the leader of the art rock band Burlesque.
But it was not until he formed the Voice Of God Collective (VOGC) in 1981 that the jazz world began to take notice.
It might have had something to do with an early highly sacrilegious act: not only did he have the nerve to call a record Scratches Of Spain, but even did a pastiche of the Miles Davis Sketches Of Spain cover, with Billy and guitar silhouetted in place of Miles and trumpet.
That?s just one of over 30 albums in the Jenkins discography, including ones with The Fun Horns Of Berlin, and, increasingly, the Blues Collective.
This is his best band yet: Dylan Bates (brother of Django) on violin, Richard Bolton on guitar, Thad Kelly on bass and Mike Pickering on drums.
They are all such fine musicians and have been playing together so long that a tighter, more singleminded outfit it would be hard to find.
They are able to change styles at the drop of a plectrum, jumping from Delta blues to Las Vegas cabaret schmooze and back again at a shout from their leader, and their ability to play hysterically funny music while maintaining facial expressions that make Buster Keaton look happy must have taken eons to perfect.
The man himself plays insane guitar that if slowed down would undoubtedly be meticulously crafted and eloquently phrased. Hell, it?s eloquently phrased even at the breakneck speeds Billy prefers.
He also sings, though the angelic purity he no doubt exhibited as a chorister at Bromley Parish Church has been somewhat soiled by more recent Tom Waits influences. Still, the gruffness is well suited to Jenkins? subject matter ? Suburban Detritus, White Van Man, Sitting On The Dock Of Ebay.
But if Billy on CD is sometimes a little too strenuous for a Sunday morning breakfast soundtrack, Billy in the flesh with his ace musicians is a club or concert treat.
Late on a Friday night is probably the best time in all the week for surrogate singing of the blues, and Billy Jenkins and the Blues Collective are at the Grand Caf>, Belgrade Theatre, Coventry this Friday from 10.30pm.
It?s April Fools? Day, of course, which shows what a finely developed sense of humour those Coventry Jazz people have. Tickets are #7.50 (#5.50 concessions) and are available from 024 7655 3055, at the door or alternatively online at www.belgrade.co.uk
It?s worth remembering how lucky we are in the Midlands to have bands and musicians able to lure guests of international standing to the heart of the country.
So, she was singing at Birdland in New York in January, and will be at Paris?s Le Petit Journal, in a month?s time, but between the two, on Sunday at 7.45pm in fact, the marvellous singer Marlene Verplanck sits in with the Garry Allcock All Stars Big Band at The Stadium Sports & Social Club, in Wheeler?s Lane, Kings Heath.
Marlene started out singing commercials for Campbell?s soups, and was a backing vocalist to everyone from Frank Sinatra to the group Kiss.
More to the point in this context, she was singer with the final version of the Dorsey Orchestra and has proved over the years in countless club and concert dates around the world that she is one of the most affectionately respectful interpreters of the great American Songbook that we have.
To hear Marlene Verplanck work her magic book today by calling Garry on 0121 475 7524 or Paul on 01902 441 600. Tickets are #10.
Finally, more sad news for the Midlands jazz scene with the passing earlier this month of trumpeter and leader of the Jazz Bandits John Burnett, at the tender age of 57.
His robust sound and cheerful demeanour are being recalled by the many who played with him or listened to him down the years at countless jazz nights around the area.
His funeral will be held on Tuesday, a 2.45 pm service at St Johns, Church Road, Perry Barr, Birmingham, then 3.30 pm at Perry Barr Crematorium, and on to Great Barr Conservative Club, Scott Arms, Birmingham. All are welcome, donations to the Heart Foundation, please.
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