Art (Arnold) Jenkins, a member of the Sun Ra Arkestra for 36 years, left the
planet on April 13, 2012, a mere five days before his 79th birthday. He was a
vocalist, lyricist, composer, poet, percussionist, and a deeply valued and
respected member of the Sun Ra Arkestra. Art's vocals ranged from the classic
big band variety to the avant-garde outer space offerings that he did using a
space megaphone, which Art referred to as his "secret weapon".
Art Jenkins first joined the Sun Ra Arkestra in 1960 and his first recording as a member of the Arkestra was "Secrets of the Sun" in 1962. He was on 7 more recordings with the Arkestra through 1971. Art then took a break from the rigors of rehearsing and touring with Sun Ra, but he returned to the Arkestra again in 1988 and never looked away again from the creative and omniversal challenges of being an active Sun Ra Arkestra member. He recorded 7 more times with the Arkestra during his second stint, the last two being "A Song for the Sun" and "Music for the 21st Century" (both on the El Ra Records label).
Beyond the Arkestra, Art Jenkins self-produced the "Under the Sun" CD showcasing the quartet that he led between Arkestra engagements. He also demonstrated his lyrical skills with his moving composition on the "King" chart dedicated to the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, which was recorded by the Brooklyn Repretory Ensemble on the "Pragmatic Optimism" CD (on the 360 Music label).
During a lifetime devoted to jazz, Art Jenkins performed at jazz festivals, concert halls, dance halls, night clubs, and on radio and TV shows. His energy and creativity will not be forgotten, but his presence will surely be missed by the legions of Sun Ra Arkestra fans and by the remaining members of the Sun Ra Arkestra.
-- Greg Drusdow
At the Art Jenkins funeral on Saturday, April 21, 2012, Nicole Neal (Art's
neice) said the following during the Obituary portion of the funeral service:
"In the mid-fifties Art was singing with a steel band from St. Thomas - singing the blues, pop, rhythm and blues, jazz and ballads, which, during that period of time was unheard of.
In 1970, he became co-leader of the "Sam Brown and Art Jenkins" Big Band, a twenty-one piece band, which received the Big Band award for best band, awarded at the 1977 "Loft Jazz Fest." Art was the co-leader of this band for thirteen years."