John Jenkins: yet another seventeenth century English composer who deserves to be more widely known. This delightful CD from The Consort of Musicke directed by Trevor Jones is no dutiful study of a hidden but rather uninspiring corner of English early Baroque consort music; rather, a mosaic – rich in color and shape, carefully crafted and full of surprises. Listen, for instance, to the unpretentious, jaunty and appropriately figurative progress through the Saraband (52, tr.6) and the restrained melancholy of the Fancy-Air (4, tr.7). Jenkins' counterpoint is well-wrought, his instrumental palette fresh and crisp and his melodies catchy without being fey or superficial in any way. He is in excellent hands with the Consort of Musicke… eight string players of the caliber of Monica Huggett and Alison Crum violins; Alan Wilson organ and Anthony Rooley theorbo. If fresh, beautiful, expertly-played English consort music appeals to you, don't hesitate to get this gem of a CD – actually a reissue of a Decca disc from 1983: it's unreservedly recommended.
The first of a five-volume CD series released by the European Classics label that reissues all of the recordings led by trumpeter Red Allen during 1929-41 is one of the best. The great trumpeter is first heard fronting the Luis Russell Orchestra for such classics as "It Should Be You" and "Biff'ly Blues," he interacts with blues singer Victoria Spivey, and on the selections from 1933 (two of which were previously unreleased) he co-leads a group with tenor-saxophonist Coleman Hawkins. Not all of the performances are gems but there are many memorable selections including "How Do They Do It That Way," "Pleasin' Paul," "Sugar Hill Function,," and "Patrol Wagon Blues." Other soloists include trombonists J.C. Higginbottham and Dicky Wells, clarinetist Albert Nicholas and altoist Charlie Holmes.
John Jenkins (1592-1678) is perhaps the most popular English composer of the great golden era of music for multiple viols, ranging from William Cornyshe in 1520 through to Henry Purcell in 1680. The reason why is not hard to fathom: a rare melodic gift is married to an exceptionally deep understanding of harmony and modulation, and effortless counterpoint gives each part an equal voice in the musical conversation.