RIP: Tony Jenkins, 1956-2015
Tony Jenkins – long-time Local 518 jazz guitarist and bandleader of the Tony Jenkins Jazz Trip – died suddenly on Sunday (March 1).
Remembering Tony Jenkins
By Matt Niedbalski
Being a young musician trying to play with older musicians can be a rather frightening experience. Intimidation is almost always a factor, plus just trying to impress the “old guys.” The first time I had the opportunity to play with Tony Jenkins was at Wallabee’s Jazz Bar in Glens Falls where he had his weekly Friday night residency. I was a mere 13 years old at the time and was just hoping things would go well. I can’t remember too many details from that night, but I do remember playing “Nostalgia in Times Square,” a tune by Charles Mingus. After the song ended, Tony reached over the cymbal with a big smile on his face and gave me a fist bump. Every time I’ve played with him since he would offer some gesture to express his gratitude, a smile, fist bump, high five or a “yeah brutha!” Tony loved his friends, and he loved playing this music we call jazz.
After that night, Tony called me for some other gigs, and eventually I would go on to play with him as his regular drummer at a gig he did at the Algonquin Restaurant in Lake George, every Sunday afternoon during the summer months. Tony was an inspiration in that every gig felt like a birthday present for him. He had played gigs with many different local musicians at venues like Wallabee’s, the Algonquin in Bolton Landing and barVino in North Creekand at each one of those venues people came to check him out. You could feel his warm spirit as soon as you walked in the door and if he had a couple beats of rest in a bar he’d probably extend his hand out to you as you passed by.
Playing with him was an extreme pleasure. We always had fun. He always made sure you got your bread (and for a musician that’s extremely important). And he always made sure everyone got out of the gig OK, helping everyone get their gear to their cars. He was a mentor to many musicians young and old, and he ALWAYS gave everyone a shot. He didn’t care if you were a seasoned veteran or just learning to play, there was always a spot on the bandstand for you. That’s something as musicians and as people we can learn from.
So while Tony won’t be on the bandstand at Wallabee’s tonight or soaking up some sun on Lake George playing his favorite tunes this summer, he’ll always have a place in the hearts of everybody who ever got the chance to meet him and hear him play. Love you, brutha.
For nearly 12 years, Tony Jenkins played Friday nights at Wallabee’s Jazz Bar in Glens Falls. Tonight (Friday, March 6) Wallabee’s will host an impromptu memorial for Jenkins. As the venue posted on their Facebook page, “We welcome you all at Wallabee’s Friday for a celebration of our good friends’ life and to gather to shed tears in his untimely passing. Bring your instruments, your stories and your heavy hearts and join the Jazz Trip for a fitting farewell.”