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Leroy Jenkins (3.11.32 –2.24.07)

Leroy Jenkins was one of the most important people I’ve ever met. He helped to strengthen my belief in myself and in my abilities on the violin. I studied with him briefly, and he definitely helped me to establish and to understand the vocabulary of creative violin playing.

I studied with Leroy in the early ’70s. I would go over to his apartment on Bedford Street in downtown Manhattan, near where Sweet Basil was located. Of course, I knew of his music, like his early records as a sideman on Delmark from when he still lived in Chicago (Muhal Richard Abrams’ Levels and Degrees of Light from 1967, Anthony Braxton’s 3 Compositions of New Jazz from 1968). I was actually planning to go to Chicago to seek him out because he was the only person who was playing the style of violin that I liked and that I wanted to play. I was interested in improvised violin, especially when the instrument is upfront like the saxophone. That’s been my desire, and Leroy inspired me in that direction. And it was not only his playing that impressed me; it was the way that he interacted with the band. In other words, the violin was not in a supportive role. There weren’t many people at that time who were playing the violin in that particular way, not even Ray Nance, who played with Duke Ellington. I did admire Stuff Smith quite a bit, but no one really played the violin the way that Leroy did. And I was really intrigued by what he was doing.

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