Aisle on the Isle: "Joe Jencks in Concert"
Joe Jencks refers to himself as "musician, vocalist, songwriter, bard." An accurate enough self-assessment, but one to which I would add, "balladeer."
Expecting nothing more than a summer evening of pleasant folk music, I was happily surprised at the depth and complexity of Mr. Jencks' performance at the Santosha Center for the Arts in Amityville. The Santosha Center is a venue small in size, but lovely in ambiance and furnishing, with outstanding acoustics. A deceptively plain storefront entrance hides this charming performance space, and it proved a worthy setting for the warm intimacy of Mr. Jencks' songs and stories.
"Ballad" is defined in Merriam-Webster as "a simple song." Superficially, some of Mr. Jencks' songs meet this criteria in both lyric and melody, but beneath most lie a depth of thought and perspective worthy of any sociologist, psychologist or philosopher. Particularly noteworthy in this respect is the playful "Men Are Good," a non-chest-thumping ode to the virtues of the male members of our species. "Men are Good" was wisely placed as the follow up to the more serious, message-imbued, "What Kind of Brother?," a meaningful social commentary seeking a little self examination from men who feel free to endlessly comment on female countenance and form at all times, and in all manner.
Mr. Jencks takes us into his life and world with self revelatory anecdotes, offering insight into the origin and development of his work. Saturated with spirituality, influenced by the Catholicism of his youth and the Buddhism of present study, his insightful lyrics seek to touch the soul as well as the heart and mind, and most often, succeed. "What Have You Done in My Name?" asks Jencks' Christ in song, an astute and moving rhetorical musical question.
Though he eschews love songs, claiming to be "allergic," one of the most lovely and moving songs of the evening was "Dance with Me," a tender and eloquent love ballad. Pure in lyric, profound in emotional impact, it is a few moments of musical transport worthy of the most accomplished balladeer.
Mr. Jencks is a talented acoustic guitar player with a richly resonant tenor voice. The intelligence, emotion, and humor he brings to his compositions and presentation makes an evening of his music a pleasure not to be missed. He is currently touring throughout the Northeast.
Opening the evening with an all-too-brief set was Long Island native Glen Roethel. Mr. Roethel's allegorical and romantic lyrics combine with finely elegant guitar playing to sweet and soothing rhythmic effect. Catch him when you can, as well.
Find more information at www.joejencks.com; www.inspireline.com (Mr. Roethel); and www.Santosha.com.
"Aisle on the Isle" is a series of reviews of Long Island theater and music events by Aliceann Donnelly, former attorney and college professor, and incurable, lifelong theater and music junkie.