Black History Month continues at HurdAudio with a deep listen to Solo, by Leroy Jenkins - recorded live at Center for Contemporary Arts in Santa Fe, New Mexico on October 24, 1992.
Leroy Jenkins - violin and viola
Leroy Jenkins' sound has long been a source of facination for my ears. And here is a recording that allows one to focus on his tone, his melodic creativity and his impressive abilities as a composer and improviser.
And that tone cuts right through with the opening track, "Blues #1," as he cuts a vibrato-free, dynamic solo line with the horse hair. "Um Cha Chi Chum" follows with a pointilistic, at times nasal sounding, exploration of the registral extremes of the instrument that builds toward a fantastic crescendo. "Hipnosis" then picks up from at that same energetic intensity and turns it into a beautiful trance.
With "Big Wood" Jenkins switches over to the darker, lower range of the viola. Over a span of just under 8 minutes this piece is an intense, focused and varied improvisation with generous splashes of pizzicato that contrast the tone of his bow strokes while bringing out the qualities of Jenkins' sound as refracted through the rich palette of the viola.
"Wouldn't You," a Dizzy Gillespie composition, is given a unique interpretation. Jenkins allows the melody to come through even as his own sound surrounds it and applies a new voice toward a great tradition.
"Dive for the Oyster, Dip for the Pearl" is the most interesting composition in this collection. The sequence of phrases - some of them brief - wash over in waves of building intensity as Jenkins often lingers on a single diad (played as a double stop) - sawing at it repeatedly with various inflections on one note or the other. Sometimes these waves recede into a tense pianissimo that sets up for the next phrase. "Keep on Trucking Brother" follows with a release from this tension as the sawing is allowed to groove into a physical release from so much "diving for the oyster."
This collection concludes with Jenkins' take on "Giant Steps" by John Coltrane. Here he spins out a harmonic fabric worthy of this rapid-fire be-bop classic. And in so doing he uncoils the tight spring of focused, prolonged solo energy with a satisfying resolution as the wall of sound eventually returns to the familiar melodic line of this jazz standard to close out this performance.