Billy Jenkins: guitarist, bandleader, lapsed-lawn bowls captain, sit-down comedian, chess subversive, bluesman, social satirist and conductor of Humanist funerals, A musical subversive he s fired toy cars at audiences from a Scalextric set strapped to his guitar and has been known to take jazz musicians to motorcycle speedway meetings to get the 'risk' of musical improvisation into perspective. He s created improvisations for everything from chess tournaments to World Cup football. He is, in short, a national treasure and if there is any justice with this, his fortysomething album release, 2010 must surely be The Year of Billy Jenkins. For his latest record Jenkins has turned once more to the South East London suburbs for inspiration. I Am A Man From Lewisham , recorded in Greenwich, finds him at the centre of a wayward musical place where the spirit of scuffed-up bowling green lawns, raffles and pebble dash are summoned and given an irreverent splash by him and his motley crew. Coming in like a kind of evangelist group therapy this is cross-genre experimentalism from a crack team of musicians. The band, held together by Billy s rabid guitar work, features iconoclastic drummer Charles Hayward originally known for his work with This Heat and Oren Marshall on tuba who can effortlessly cross from free form to nailing a tight bass line. Innovative improviser Gail Brand on trombone, Blues Collective member Dylan Bates on violin and pocket cornet, and Empirical band member Nathaniel Facey on alto saxophone (who met Billy when he was taught by him at the Royal Academy of Music) complete the line up. Spontaneously directed by Billy, the ensemble rides and falls on his ability to pick up on subtle inflections from his players and to capitalise on their instant creativity.
'Next to Jenkins, chroniclers of modern Britain such as Pulp seem like feckless dilettanti' --New Statesman