Born in Chicago, composer and violinist Leroy Jenkins was one of the most important musicians to emerge from the AACM (Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians), the legendary collective of which he was a member until his death in 2007. Like many of the Association's members, Jenkins studied under the legendary Walter Dyett at DuSable High School, where he learned the alto saxophone.
He received a music degree (in violin)
from Florida A&M University, where he studied composition and the
classical masters of the violin. Subsequently, he taught music both in
Mobile, Alabama (1961-5) and in the Chicago schools (1965-9). During the
latter period, Jenkins joined the AACM. He made his first recording with
Muhal Richard Abrams, Anthony Braxton, and Leo Smith in the sixties before
achieving international acclaim in Paris along with Braxton, Smith, and
the Art Ensemble of Chicago. In 1970 Jenkins moved to New York, where
he founded the Revolutionary Ensemble, the critically acclaimed ensemble
which recorded 7 albums and toured North America and Europe.
Playing with Taylor (1970) and Braxton (1969-72), he also worked with Albert Ayler, Cal Massey, Alice Coltrane, Archie Shepp & Rahsaan Roland Kirk. Between 1971-7, he played in his Revolutionary Ensemble, a trio featuring Sirone (Norris Jones) on bass & trombone, and drummer/pianist Jerome Cooper. Thereafter, he toured the US & Europe, led the Mixed Quintet (Jenkins and 4 woodwind players), a blues-based band called Sting, and again played with Cecil Taylor.
Jenkins continually reinvented
his own language in music. His was an extraordinary bonding of a variety
of sounds associated with the black music tradition, while simultaneously
bridging with European styles. His intermeshing of jazz and classical
influences left critics wondering at his musical identity; however,
as one San Francisco Chronicle critic said, "Jenkins is a master
who cuts across all categories."
Leroy Jenkins died on February 24, 2007, in Brooklyn, NY.