Itís always a pleasure to come across recordings made by Tom Jenkins, one of Britainís great Grand Hotel ĎKingsí. He took over the Grand Hotel mantle at the BBC from the mortally ill Albert Sandler in 1948 and Jenkins kept the position until 1954, though he returned to the corporation with his own ensemble soon thereafter. He was soon to share Sandlerís melancholy fate. Jenkins died in 1957 at the age of 47, hardly much older than Sandler himself.
Jenkins had studied with Carl Flesch and had a secure classical grounding. Recordings preserved on a Symposium disc, in its Great Violinists series, reveal quite how excellent was his technique. The studio recordings in this Dinmore disc were made in 1951 when he was securely installed as the countryís leading violinist supremo of the Light Music genre. I hadnít come across this disc before, though it was re-mastered, and presumably made available, as long ago as 2002. Still, itís excellent to make its acquaintance now.
The programme is a typical one, spiced by some interesting novelties. Arrangers such as Fred Cramer and the pianist in Jenkinsís orchestra, Jack Byfield, were on hand to craft melodies and medleys and to steer the tunes in the most appropriate direction, all the while graced by the warm tone and facile technique of the leader, probably sporting his 1667 Strad for the purpose.
Itís good to start with Ovide Musinís Mazurka de Concert
which reflects Jenkinsís classical strengths in his use of rubati and pizzicati. Languorous warmth floods Eric Coatesís By the Sleepy Lagoon
and itís entertaining to hear how Byfield stitched together a predictable series of tunes for Melodies of Britain
, amongst which are Danny Boy
, Cherry Ripe
, Loch Lomond
, All Through The Night
, John Peel
and Drink To Me Only
. How successfully to convey in the lighter mode something like Hahnís If My Songs Were Only Winged
can be best gauged by listening to this excellent performance. Marchettiís Fascination
was by then a popular evergreen but itís played with convincing and communicative geniality. To distil some humour, Kai Mortensenís The Laughing Violin
does precisely that in Jenkinsí hands.
Charles Williams, himself a fiddler, conductor and composer of huge distinction in the Light Music genre, contributes Jealous Lover
, an ingratiating piece that offers little concertante moments for the hard-working band members; apart from Jenkins we hear from the other members of his trio in this disc, namely Byfield and cellist Reginald Kilbey, later well-known as a conductor. The selection from Because Youíre Mine
distils the essence of the style in nine minutes of cantabile richness and dancing verve: namely variety, instrumental finesse and a terpsichorean elegance.
There are two bonus tracks from 1952. Jenkins plays the Air on the G String
in a closely cut side beset by audience coughs. There are a few minor acetate thumps toward the end of the record. MacDowellís To a Wild Rose
is accompanied by noisy paper rustling but is finely played. These two allow us access to Jenkins playing live, without a safety net, as is the case with that Symposium disc  which is almost wholly classical. Dinmoreís transfer clearly comes from a commercial copy as there a few little scratches here and there. Itís good to welcome Jenkins back to the fold.