Two Lane Highways
Jay Leonhart JayLeonhart.com TheBassLesson.com As a result of thousands of recordings and appearances around the globe, bassist Jay Leonhart has become one of the world's best known jazz bassists. His recordings and performances with many of the greatest pop and jazz singers of the twentieth century- from Mel Torme, Tony Bennett, Frank Sinatra and Peggy Lee, to James Taylor and Steely Dan--have made his name familiar to music fans all over the world. Jay's CD's of his own songs are hailed for their originality and humor, poetry and insight, as well as presenting great jazz played by outstanding jazz musicians. Jay Leonhart was born in Baltimore in 1940 and began his music studies at the Peabody School of Music at the age of six. He played many different instruments on his way to settling on the bass violin, which he started playing at age 13. In the 1950's, as Bill Haley began getting famous, Jay started playing bass the bass in what was Baltimore's hottest dixieland band, The Pier Five Jazz Band, and learned all those wonderful dixieland and traditional songs that keep popping up today. By age 15, Jay was working weekends (and sometimes week nights) in all the music clubs and bars around Baltimore, listening to the juke boxes and learning all the old pop and jazz songs by ear. After further studies at Peabody and The Berklee School of Music, Jay headed for New York in 1961 where he hoped to earn a living as a bass player and to be thought of as a 'good' player. He has achieved both. After marrying a beautiful young singer named Donna Zier in 1970, Jay's career took on a more serious purpose, and he began to work regularly in the New York recording studios, eventually being named three times as The Most Valuable Bass Player by The National Association of Recording Arts and Sciences. Jay and Donna had two children. Michael and Carolyn, who are now grown and are both very successful musicians. Still, Jay kept playing jazz and writing his songs. Oh those songs! Eventually his individualistic talents and eccentricities as a songwriter started to be noticed by the world, and now besides over 300 compositions of his own, Jay has provided official lyrics for such jazz standards as Charlie Parker's 'Confirmation', Eddie Harris' 'Freedom jazz Dance', and Tommy Flanagan's 'Bluebird'. Jay's entire catalogue of songs is currently being prepared for publication. So these are interesting times for a dixieland bassist from Baltimore. Jay has been privileged to play and record with many of the great jazz musicians of all time, from Dizzy Gillespie, Duke Ellington, Benny Goodman, Max Roach, Poppa Joe Jones, and Sonny Rollins to many of today's current jazz artists. Jay's one man show, The Bass Lesson is now being presented in theaters and jazz venues around the world, as well being prepared for showing on the arts TV networks. The show is a one man musical about life as a jazz bass player. See TheBassLesson.com. Jay is currently recording his most interesting project yet. It is a multi CD set of about one hundred of his songs-recorded live with just bass and voice. No overdubs. Just bass and voice. Visit JayLeonhart.com for progress reports. Jay Leonhart Profile | Biography | Discography | MP3s | Lyrics | Pictures b. James Chancellor Leonhart, 6 December 1940, Baltimore, Maryland, USA. As a youth, Leonhart studied classical piano at the Peabody School of Music but his interest lay in jazz. Encouraged by his music teacher to follow his instincts, he abandoned not only classical music but also the piano. He began playing banjo and guitar, teaming up with his brother Bill to form a professional duo. They enjoyed a good measure of national success, appearing on the Today television show in the early 50s. Leonhart then began writing and singing songs but he had yet to find his true musical niche. This came when he was exposed to jazz bass playing in general and the Oscar Peterson Trio with Ray Brown, in particular. He briefly attended the Berklee College Of Music and also studied at Peterson's Advanced School of Contemporary Music, before going on the road with Buddy Morrow's band in 1960. The following year, aware that he needed to advance his musical education, Leonhart went to Toronto where Brown was teaching at The Advanced School of Contemporary Music. Through the 60s and on through succeeding decades, Leonhart accompanied numerous artists from the world of jazz, including Mike Longo, Urbie Green, Marian McPartland, Zoot Sims, Jim Hall, Buddy Rich, Mel Tormâ??, Louie Bellson and Lee Konitz. A respected studio musician, he also worked with a wide range of pop music stars, among them Ethel Ennis, Tony Bennett, Judy Garland, Liza Minnelli, Madonna, Sting and Stevie Wonder. In the course of a long and hugely successful career, Leonhart has twice been named the Most Valuable Bassist by The National Association of Recording Arts and Sciences. He continued his song writing activities, often turning his own poems into songs. Three of his songs were used in the 90s off-Broadway hit show, Secrets Every Smart Traveler Should Know, in which he also performed, and he also appeared in his own show in New York, It's Impossible To Sing And Play The Bass. Also in the 90s, he made a number of European tours with Bucky Pizzarelli and John Bunch in the band New York Swing. Despite having formed a lasting friendship with Brown during his stay in Toronto in the early 60s, Leonhart had never performed with his mentor, a failing that was remedied in 1999 at a New York concert entitled, Jay Meets Ray. Leonhart's children Michael (trumpet) and Carolyn (vocals) are successful freelance musicians, who in the late 90s performed with Steely Dan. Whether as a listening supportive accompanist, as soloist, or as a gifted songwriter, with a flair for humorous lyrics, Leonhart is an important and busy figure, especially on the New York music and theatrical scenes and is greatly respected by his peers.