Welsh multi-instrumentalist and composer Sir Karl Jenkins (b. 1944) was educated in music at Cardiff University and the Royal Academy of Music. He joined the jazz-rock band Soft Machine in 1972 and became the group’s lead songwriter in 1974. Jenkins continued to work with Soft Machine up to 1984, but has not been involved with any incarnation of the group since. Jenkins has composed music for advertisement campaigns and has won the industry prize twice.
For the bulk of his early career Jenkins was known as a jazz and jazz-rock musician, playing baritone and soprano saxophones, keyboards and oboe, an unusual instrument in a jazz context. He joined jazz composer Graham Collier’s group and later co-founded the jazz-rock group Nucleus, which won first prize at the Montreux Jazz Festival in 1970.
In 1972 he joined the Canterbury progressive rock band Soft Machine. The group played venues including The Proms, Carnegie Hall, and the Newport Jazz Festival. The album Six, on which Jenkins first played with Soft Machine, won the Melody Maker British Jazz Album of the Year award in 1973.
However, his classical work “Adiemus”, which was commissioned for a television commercial, topped the classical charts around the globe and brought him to the world’s attention.
Jenkins has won many awards in the field of advertising music with credits for Levi’s, British Airways, Renault, Volvo and Pepsi to name but a few, but it is for his concerts that he has achieved critical acclaim.
In 2015 he was confirmed as the most popular living composer in Classic FM’s “Ultimate Hall of Fame” and holds the Classic FM ‘Red f’ award for “outstanding service to classical music”. He was awarded a Knighthood in the 2015 Queen’s Birthday Honours for “services to composing and crossing musical genres”.