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Checking in No. 2: Jason Jenkins

Jason Jenkins quartet playing jazz during the pandemic. (Photo by Peter McElhinney)
In June, the Jason Jenkins quartet got together to stream a performance outside of a wine shop called Barrel Thief, where they recorded their new album. Photo courtesy of Peter McElhinney.

In the second installment of “Checking in,” I speak with Richmond bassist, bandleader and music label founder Jason Jenkins.

Jason is a native of Richmond. He attended Huguenot High School and studied music at Hampton University. Until the pandemic hit, he worked four nights a week, usually leading his own combos. For more than ten years he has played a regular gig  at a localn wine shop called Barrel Thief.

In addition to being a talented bassist, Jason is an avid jazz listener. The music was present in his life before he was even really aware of it.

"I was exposed to jazz, but I didn't really take ear to it until like my freshman year of college," says Jason. 

Jason's father possessed a large collection of classic jazz lps including really nice copies of John Coltrane's  Blue Trane, Miles Davis's Kind of Blue and  Art Blakey's Moanin, but until he returned from his freshman year of college, he never even noticed what was there. 

"I was like, oh my god that was here the whole time," says Jason. "The WHOLE time!" 

When he discusses his favorite recordings, Jason has the kind of enthusiasm you might hear from an athletic fan describing their fantasy football team. Discussing John Coltrane's late 50's Prestige LP,  The Believer he says: "From top to bottom, you know, it's just so solid. And if you don't like that, you don't like jazz." 

Bassist Jason Jenkins (photo courtesy of Jason Jenkins)

In 2012, together with guitarist Alan Parker, Jason founded 32 Bar records - a jazz label created to give opportunities for some of his fellow area musicians to make their own cds. He kept up the enterprise for about three years and we can thank Jason and Alan for recordings of Debo Dabney, Sharon Rae North, Desiree Roots, Victor Haskins, Lucy Kilpatrick and others, including several of Jason’s own cds.

Just before the pandemic grounded everything to a halt, Jason recorded a live album with his quartet and released that recording in June. It’s called “Live at the Barrel Thief” and features Jason Jenkins on bass with Victor Haskins on trumpet, Alan Parker on guitar and Billy Williams on drums.

Jason and his group are now performing live once again. You can catch them in their weekly gig at Bateau every Tuesday and Friday from 6:30 – 8:30.

The music excerpted in this segment includes the following:

  • Jason Jenkins Quartet: Bossa do Brilho
  • Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers: Moanin’
  • John Coltrane: Dear Lord
  • John Coltrane: The Believer
  • Miles Davis: Blue Haze
  • Eastern Rebellion: Bittersweet
  • Jason Jenkins Quartet: Sanctimonious Sam
  • Jason Jenkins Quartet: Melody for C
  • Jason Jenkins Quartet: Stablemates
  • Jason Jenkins Quartet: Book’s Bossa
  • Sonny Clark: Dial S for Sonny
  • Jason Jenkins Quartet: Straight Ahead