Billy squares up with producer Tony Messenger. Photographed by Beowulf Mayfield.
A fight to the bell...
Of all forms of jazz, free improvisation is possibly the most challenging for the listening audience. Billy recognises this and to make things a little easier for listeners he devised his musical Big Fights - inspired by the sport of boxing. Two improvisers face each other and, when the bell rings, they come out of their respective corners playing - no biting, no gouging and absolutely no playing of standards! When two or three minutes have passed, the bell rings again and the playing must stop. This way, free improvisations are presented round-by-round in "bite size" portions. It's all very simple really - but it's not so simple to record, as producer Tony Messenger recalls...
Series Two, Episode Six: Big Fights - with Tony Messenger
5. It's all too much...
There's too much going on in the world - too much information, too much noise, too much social pressure and too much of everything! In this episode Billy describes how the irritations of suburban life inspired one of his most stamping, stomping and comical blues songs...Listen
There's something out there in the darkness... It sounds like a scary film soundtrack is sneaking through the dark suburban streets... Don't worry, Billy assures us, it's only a string quartet - members of the Gogmagogs musical theatre group to be exact, and they only sound scary to consumers of the mainstream media... Listen
When drummer Mike Pickering was a teenager he told a careers adviser that he wanted to be a drummer in a blues band. He had to wait a few years but in 1995 Billy Jenkins made that dream come true when he asked Mike to be part of the "holy trinity" at the heart of the Blues Collective. In this episode he recalls his part in that history... Listen
When Billy performs away from home, he takes great care to learn as much as he can about local opinion and sensitivities. In this story we hear about the time, earlier in his career, when Billy put his foot right in it... Listen
Billy believes you can always recognise a fellow artist. It's obvious from the way they talk about their work, just listen to what they say - you can never mistake it. Well... almost never. Special guest performer and Channel 4 First Dates sensation Maggie Day stepped up to the microphone to read Billy's account of the time when two artistic minds didn't quite agree. Listen
Billy confirms that he is still alive, explains the intricacies of the low strung guitar and mourns the decline of traditional analogue recording... Listen
Billy describes how, and why, he embarked on his musical journey back to his blues roots after many years of playing jazz... Listen
Multi-instrumentalist, bandleader and record producer Charlie Hart describes meeting Billy through Wood Wharf studios performing with the Voice of God Collective in the late 1980s... Listen
Billy discusses the constant pressures imposed by the forever-connected, immediately responding digital world. There's so much to take in it's no wonder he can't remember if he's locked the back door...Listen
Billy explains his philosophy of "aural cartoons" and describes how an overdose of so-called "smooth" jazz can really grate on the nerves. It might be exploring a form of torture but there's no connection with the Marquis de Sade - really... Listen
Record producer Tony Messenger jumped into his amazing psychadelic-wrapped car for the trip to leafy Brockley to talk about his long association with Billy Jenkins and the challenges of capturing the essence of his musical ideas on record... Listen
We all love a bit of binge listening and, on the completion of Series One of the Billy Jenkins Listening Club, we reckoned we'd made one of the best box set listening binges going - we even made a video to go with it...Watch and Listen
The internet seems to be plastered with previews and trailers for films, television shows and albums these days, so we did one as well... Listen
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