The Billy Jenkins Listening Club

Billy Jenkins and Tony Messenger square up in the boxing ring. Photographed by Beowulf Mayfield

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

Previous Episodes

Series Two

5. It's all too much...

Billy Jenkins playing guitar in a supermaket car park. Photographed by Beowulf Mayfield

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

4. Those scary strings...

Billy Jenkins and teddy bear Bot photographed by Beowulf Mayfield

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

3. A teenage ambition fulfilled...

Mike Pickering at the drums photographed by Beowulf Mayfield

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

2. A tough lesson...

Billy Jenkins and souvenir bull photographed by Beowulf Mayfield

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

1. When artists meet...

Billy Jenkins and Maggie Day photographed by Beowulf Mayfield

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

Series One

1. Rage Against the (mp3) Machine

Billy Jenkins covering his ears photographed by Beowulf Mayfield

Billy confirms that he is still alive, explains the intricacies of the low strung guitar and mourns the decline of traditional analogue recording... Listen

2. Billy Jenkins sees the light

Billy Jenkins lit with blue light photographed by Beowulf Mayfield

Billy describes how, and why, he embarked on his musical journey back to his blues roots after many years of playing jazz... Listen

3. 'Anything could happen'

Charlie Hart photographed by Beowulf Mayfield

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

4. Did you lock the back door?

Billy Jenkins locks up for the night photographed by Beowulf Mayfield

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

5. The pain of smooth jazz

Billy Jenkins models Sade-style lips photographed by Beowulf Mayfield

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

6. A life-changing collaboration

Tony Messenger in his psychadelic-wrapped car photographed by Beowulf Mayfield

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

Bonus Tracks

The Box Set Binge Video

Billy Jenkins Listening Club on a laptop computer screen photographed by Beowulf Mayfield

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 Ultra Trendy Preview

Billy Jenkins at the microphone photographed by Beowulf Mayfield

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

Stay in touch

Subscribe to the webcast: RSS feed for podcast capture systems:

Keep up to date on Facebook: visit, like and follow the Billy Jenkins Listening Club page.

Follow the listening club on Twitter: @BJListeningClub

Club Credits

Beowulf Mayfield photographed by Billy Jenkins

The Billy Jenkins Listening Club webcast is presented by creative photographer and former jazz columnist Beowulf "Wulfie" Mayfield.

Watch the companion animated video on YouTube

Tony Messenger photographed by Beowulf Mayfield

Record producer Tony Messenger worked with Billy during the 1980s and 1990s, recording many of Billy's most famous albums including the True Love Collection, which is ranked in the BBC's 50 Greatest Jazz Albums playlist

The music played in this episode is a snapcast exclusive from the Big Fights cassette series, not yet available in digital format.

Mike Pickering photographed by Beowulf Mayfield

Drummer Mike Pickering was part of the "holy trinity" rhythm section at the core of Billy's Blues Collective. After driving and jetting around many parts of the world, he's got plans to use his feet more by leading a marching band...

Charlie Hart photographed by Beowulf Mayfield

Multi-instrumentalist Charlie Hart was a member of Billy's Voice of God Collective and played on Uncommerciality Volume 2. He's also produced several of Billy's most recent albums.

Maggie Day photographed by Beowulf Mayfield

The story that opens Series Two is read by performer Maggie Day, sensation of Channel 4's First Dates in May 2017.

Billy Jenkins photographed by Beowulf Mayfield

Guitarist, bandleader and composer Billy Jenkins is currently on an open-ended sabbaitcal from live performance. The Listening Club podcast provides an alternative outlet for his creative energies. You can read more about his music at

For further short audio-visual pleasures, have you seen the Billy@60 music sn-apps?