I do like the way Jimmy Denis describes himself, unassuming yet enticingly descriptive…
Music composer and instructor on Solo Ukulele. Story Crafter.
Growing up with parents in the business, Jimmy was lucky enough to be around some of the greats such as BB King and Eric Clapton, observing and soaking up the creative atmosphere into his bones and it is therefore perhaps in some way surprising he chose the ukulele path rather than guitar. That said, his notions as to the draw of the uke are clear and utterly agreeable…
The ukulele is far more than just the instrument of peace, it is a powerful and fun tool of creativity which anyone can master.
So then our story lands in late 2016 when, thanks to a successful Kickstarter campaign, Jimmy released his debut album “Ukulele Circus”. Indeed perhaps to call it an album is a little blasé, more so a solo acoustic journey, a melting pot of style, non-verbal story telling and layered instrumental ukulele experimentation. The first track Gypsy Tango is a delicate rich opening with just a tang of the oriental about it developing into a passionate strum and melody more in keeping with the fire its title suggests. Minneapolis then treats us to complex and aggressive playing, a little reminiscent of prog rock to my ears with its unusual chord shifts and attacking approach.
I find the track titles well written, a clear indication in the main of what to expect from each “story”, indeed Ocean conjures the perfect imagery of gentle blue waves in name and ukulele, right through to the fade where one can imagine the song softly dip over the horizon from a beach front viewpoint.
My personal favourite piece is Bossanova Romance, the solid question and answer rhythm solidly supporting the melody throughout culminating in a considerate and gentle softness as if quietly lulling the music to sleep.
And so the album continues, 10 tracks in all each title and tonal characteristic bringing a new theme to the collection, each probing our imagination.
Jimmy’s approach to the ukulele with this debut release is an interesting one, his intention to integrate a narrative into his vocal-less music so cleverly executed for this circus is a travelling one, taking you on many an acoustic adventurous expedition into both sound and imagination. The beauty in all music can be how the individual interprets the notes into a personal experience and with Ukulele Circus one can allow the mind to go wild with inventiveness.