David Leonhardt pianist and composer bio -Career Highlights

Twenty year with saxophonist David “Fathead” Newman: arranging and playing on four CDs, international tours. 1988-2008
Four year as musical director for jazz vocalist Jon Hendricks: international tours, jazz festivals, radio and TV broadcasts. 1983-1987
President and founder of Big Bang Records with eighteen CDs as a leader. 1993 to present.
Fifteen years leading The David Leonhardt Jazz Group a concert ensemble with hundreds of performances: theaters, Universities, Colleges, festivals, arts organizations US, Canada and Europe. 1993-2008
Twelve years freelance experience in New York City. Broadway to the Today Show, jazz clubs to dance halls, Bar Mitzvahs and weddings to cabaret clubs and Lincoln Center, jingles to jazz records. 1980-1992
Twenty years performing with legendary Tap Dancers. Musical director for Manhattan Tap and The Shelley Oliver Tap Dancers including National and European tours, television and DVDs. 1987 to 2008
Decades of experiences as a jazz educator in universities, colleges, clinics and workshops. Ten years of presenting “Jazz For Kids” an interactive children's program.
First jazz experience playing piano as a teenager with jazz educator Jamey Aebersold in concerts, clubs and school presentations in Louisville, KY. 1974-1980
First professional engagement at the age of 14 in a teenage rock band. First road experience with a southern rock band touring Dixie age 16. 1970-1976


David Leonhardt, jazz pianist and composer, is a highly skilled and versatile artist. His thirty seven years of professional experience has included recordings, T.V. and radio, concerts and festivals, night clubs and stage shows. He has appeared internationally throughout North and South America, Europe, the Middle and Far East with some of the biggest names in jazz. He leads his own concert ensemble The David Leonhardt Jazz Group and is the founder and president of Big Bang Records with fifteen CDs as a leader. Recently Mr. Leonhardt arranged and recorded a jazz CD with saxophonist David ""Fathead"" Newman, and released the CDs ""I'll Be Home For Christmas"" and ""In The Moment"". Mr. Leonhardt is on the roster of The Pennsylvania Arts On Tour and gives educational clinics worldwide.

Performing and studying as a teenager in Louisville, Kentucky with noted educator Jamey Aebersold, Mr. Leonhardt acquired his skills backing such diverse jazz talents as Buddy Defranco, Dave Liebman, and Buddy Tate. After moving to New York City in his twenties Mr. Leonhardt established himself as an international performing artist when he toured for four years as musical director for jazz legend Jon Hendricks, accompanying vocalists such as Diane Reeves and Bobby McFarren. Joining The David ""Fathead"" Newman Quintet he furthered his reputation as a burning jazz pianist and made his name familiar on the New York jazz scene. He went on to form his own band performing in the U.S., Japan, and Europe. In 1991 he founded Big Bang Records and released his first CD ""Departure"" to great critical acclaim as well as his popular CD ""Reflections"".

Mr. Leonhardt has produced, arranged, and performed on numerous recordings with jazz stars Stan Getz, Slide Hampton, Jon Hendricks, Eddie Henderson, Robin Eubanks, Ray Drummond, and Lewis Nash. His compositions have been recorded by such jazz greats as Stanley Turentine, David ""Fathead"" Newman, Hank Crawford, and Claudio Roditi. He has written arrangements for The Art Blakey Big Band and been guest conductor and arranger for The Benny Carter Orchestra.

At present Mr. Leonhardt is leading his own band with successful appearances at the International Arts Festival of Shenzen in China, the Winnipeg Jazz Festival, The French Maison de Dance in Lyon, as well festivals and concerts throughout the United States. His all star group has been heard at The Apollo Theater, The Blue Note, and Birdland. He is the musical director for The Shelley Oliver Tap Dancers a popular all female dance group.


""David Leonhardt, an intense and swinging artist alert to every mood.""
Leonard Feather, Los Angeles Times

""The David Leonhardt Trio provided first rate jazz.""
Burt Supree, Village Voice

""The superb David Leonhardt Trio....""
Bob Harrington, New York Post

""Mr. Leonhardt on piano is also musical director. The troupe is fortunate to have him.""
Jack Anderson, New York Times

""...David Leonhardt, who played with ease, respect, and good cheer.""
Phillip Elwood, San Francisco Chronicle

""Leonhardt explored the piece in a solo that showed his understanding of space as well as notes.""
Stuart Troup, New York Newsday

""...a stellar rhythm section , featuring David Leonhardt on piano.""

""Backed by the superb David Leonhardt Trio, with expert and sensitive piano work by Leonhardt.""
Back Stage

""... a fiery solo by pianist David Leonhardt.""
Royal Stokes, Washington Post

""Leonhardt is doing just fine in the jazz world.""
Gene Williams, Louisville Courier Journal

""David Leonhardt is a very swinging articulate pianist""
Porland Jazz Notes

""Mr. Leonhardt's Group gives refreshing insight to the music of Georger Gershwin""
Jazz News

""Leonhardt's Jazz Group is Magnificent""
Jazz Hot

David Leonhardt Interview
Taken and Transcribed by Ludwig Van Trikt

CADENCE: What was your early beginning like?
DAVID LEONHARDT: My first professional job was at the age of 14 in Louisville, KY. I was playing organ in a teen rock and roll band and that job was for a basement make-out party for teenagers when the parents were out of town. I knew from that moment I wanted to be a professional musician. What could be better than being the center of attention to all my peers? Having the girls think I was cool didn’t hurt either. Also, I sensed from the start that when the music is playing and the best is happening, the moment has been lifted out of the ordinary. Even then that feeling of being part of something larger than myself was powerful and profound. That band went on to be popular in central Kentucky and we did a lot of high school dances or roller rink dances where the kids would roller skate for two hours then dance for two hours. We were so young that we could not even drive so our moms would load us into their station wagons with all our amps and PA equipment; they would take us all over Kentucky. We played every weekend for a few years. In those days we called it “playing”. Later when I started playing with older musicians for more money, we called it “working”. Somehow, that change in wording made us feel more grown up.
My first girlfriend was a teenage groupie who would follow us around from gig to gig and my next girlfriend was the singer in the band. That pretty much set the pattern for the next twenty years of my life as far as relationships went. That band won a big local battle of the bands and we were awarded a big expensive PA system that was our downfall. Once we had assets we started to argue over them and eventually broke up.
After that I joined a southern rock band that copied Allman Brothers songs. I was 16 and the other guys were in their 20’s and we were playing Blues bars and nightclubs, playing till the wee hours of the morning. They nicknamed me “The Kid” and I had to lie about my age to play in the clubs. I was the only one in the band that could read music. I would say that sex, drugs, and Rock and Roll was their mantra so it gave me a real education. Back then my audience was bikers and drinkers and people looking to hook up and get high. A real discerning crowd. I loved every minute of it and moved out of my parents house when I was 17. By then I was playing a Wurlitzer electric piano and a Hammond organ.
After a year of that I joined a roadhouse country and western band that played six nights a week for a couple years at a country dance hall. The bar owner was the worst. He hated the musicians and made our life hell. But that was where I learned to belly up to the bar and order a drink. We were playing for middle age country dancers who would crowd the dance floor all night long. The music was loud and fun. By this time I had a four keyboard setup adding a clavinet and a fender Rhodes. We lost that gig and went to a real country dive where we played for alcoholics, losers and prostitutes. The smoke was so thick that my eyes would water all night and I finally quit the gig over that.
CAD: You must be very familiar with the chitlin circuit, having played for ten years with David “Fathead” Newman?
D.L.: When I first started playing Jazz I was 17 years old and knew nothing but had heard two Miles Davis records. One was A Tribute to Jack Johnson, which is a fusion record of rock vamps that knocked me out, and a compilation that included “Seven Steps To Heaven” and “Four”. I dug that as well but had no frame of reference to understand about the different styles in Jazz. Luckily for me Jamey Aebersold lived near me and I started hanging out with him at his house and he would show me things on the piano. Jamey is the number one Jazz education/clinic thing so it was great for me to be around that. There were no pianists in town then who would jam with him so he taught me so he could practice with a live band. It wasn’t lessons though, it was more like “learn these chords so next time you come over we can jam or Blue Bossa”. It was really a lot of pressure because everyone else in his basement at these jam sessions knew what was what and I was still coming out of the rock and roll sensibility. They murdered me! I did everything wrong that was possible and the other musicians couldn’t stand it. Jamey must have sensed my desire to play Jazz and hung in there and soon I could at least stay out of their way. I eventually started doing gigs with him at schools and concerts. During this period I moved out of my parents house, lived with a series of older women and started practicing seriously hours and hours every day. I was young and wanted to play music more than anything. It was an overpowering urge. Between Jazz and women I had no time for school or anything else. I was young and don’t regret a minute of it.
At the same time in Louisville there was a real divide between the White musicians and the Black ones. I lived in the east end, a mostly White area, and the west end was mostly Black. Right away I figured there was a lot more fun to be had in the west end. I used to go to a club in the west end that had a Jazz/funk band and sit in. They would let me because they knew I played with Jamey and respected him. This was a real chitlin circuit club. It was another world for a skinny White kid with long hair. Little did I know that I would spend years of my life in clubs just like that one, with soul food and flashy dressing pimps and the only White face anywhere around being me. Most of that is gone now except for a few places like Trenton. I was doing gigs with soul bands as well and these guys would hip me to what was going on in the Jazz world. This was where I got used to being the only White guy in a band-a pattern that would last for decades.
When I was nineteen I played acoustic bass in a Jazz trio at a club for a year. This was a sophisticated, expensive New York-type supper club and was great for me to learn a lot of Jazz songs. At that point I had to decide what my main instrument would be. I chose piano and worked six nights a week for three years at two different gigs leading my own trio. This was where I really learned how to be a Jazz guy. At one of the clubs we were the house trio and we would back headliners from out of town. I got to play with guys like Buddy Tate, Dave Liebman, Buddy DeFranco and a host of others. Sometimes I would split sets with people like Helen Humes and Barney Kessel. We were the happening place in town for a year and I thought I was something. Next stop Hollywood! This was where I learned the reality of the club scene when it turned out the manager stole all the profits, committed insurance fraud, and left town in the middle of the night. The club closed and I was such a jazzer that I couldn’t find another gig. That is also when I learned that Jazz is not popular in a commercial sense. All the clubs were playing disco. After six months of not working I moved to Brooklyn.
CAD: I would imagine that two of the highlights of your career would be the work that you did for the Art Blakey Big Band and The Benny Carter Orchestra. How did you land those gigs?
D.L.: Those were nice opportunities. I co-led (c. late ‘80s, early '90s) a band with Michele Hendricks, the Jazz vocalist (Jon Hendricks’ daughter). The bassist was Ray Drummond and the drummer was Marvin “Smitty” Smith who is now the drummer on “The Tonight Show”. We played all over New York and did a series of CDs together for the Muse label in the 80s. Those three CDs really helped a lot in my development as an arranger and record producer. The bands were top-notch and we really put our hearts into them. We toured for about three years in Europe, Japan, and the U.S. so we got various chances to do different concerts with some great players.
We toured Japan with Benny Carter and his Orchestra. Lots of fun and a really top-notch band from LA. Benny was great and let me lead the band when we did our part of the concert. He was the kind of guy that wasn’t afraid to share the limelight. Very supportive. He used to say the reason he was well known was because he survived longer than any of his contemporaries. I am sure it was more than that but that gives you an idea of what a gentleman he was. Not an egotist like so many young Jazz so-called stars.
The Art Blakey gig was similar although on that one I wrote arrangements and did not play. Michele Hendricks and I were on tour in Japan and she was asked to sing at the Mt. Fuji Jazz Festival with Art. So I wrote a few arrangements and got to rehearse the band. Art was a trip! When it was time to go on, a sweet little Japanese girl said, “Mr. Blakey, this way to the stage,” and Art growled at her, “Honey, I been finding the stage for fifty years!”
CAD: Has the revival of the electric piano in Jazz over the past few years affected your own playing? What do you attribute it to?
D.L.: My first gigs were on organ and electric piano so I am very familiar with the different ways to play electric versus acoustic. In fact, I didn’t play an acoustic piano on gigs very much until I started playing Jazz, and then not very much. In the ‘70s almost all the gigs were keyboard gigs unless you were doing a cocktail piano solo gig. Even the Jazz clubs were going to keyboards. My first keyboard was a Farfisa organ, a Fender Rhodes. Then in the ‘80s synths came in and I got a DX7 and then a Korg. They all basically sucked, to be honest. But they were loud so I could play as loud as the guitarists. When I moved to New York most were out of tune but at least I didn’t have to carry around a back-breaking box. I used my electric for a few years in New York until it was stolen out of the back of my car in the middle of the day on Broadway and Houston Street. For years I didn’t have a keyboard but now I have a few. They really are much better now. I can actually do a Jazz concert on my keyboard without hating it. The way things are now, a good keyboard sounds close to a bad piano. Many concert venues, especially outdoors ones...the way they mike the piano and use monitors to hear everything, a keyboard is not that different than an acoustic grand. I also use a keyboard when I do organ gigs as opposed to Hammond B3 just because I don’t want to carry a big organ around.
CAD: Describe your “Jazz for Kids” program.
D.L.: When I learned to play from Jamey Aebersold, as soon as I could play well enough he had me go on gigs with him at schools and demonstrate Jazz to kids. So it is something I have been doing for over thirty years. The first thing he said to me was to smile when you play for kids so they can see how much fun it is to play music. That aloof jazz guy thing doesn’t work with kids.
My Jazz for Kids program is a fun way to get young children to hear and enjoy Jazz. We play songs they know and take them apart and blow on them. Some nursery rhymes, some Disney songs, and some TV themes. We demonstrate the instruments and get the kids singing and clapping. We make it seem cool to play Jazz and show them how much fun it is. We present it in schools for students or in theaters as a family show. The parents always like it as well, so it makes for a great experience for a family. Very seldom can a whole family find music they all like, so this serves a purpose to bring them together.
Some songs we will have the kids sing while we improvise on top of them so that they become part of the band and the experience of being in the moment of creation. I always scat for them and they like that, and we will do call and answer with rhythms and little Jazz phrases. We stress the creative side of Jazz and let them feel that they could improvise with just a little practice. It really excites them and we get letters and drawings from children all the time, saying how they want to be Jazz players. We have done the show hundreds of times for thousands of kids and I am sure that there are a lot of budding Jazz musicians out there because they saw how great it is to play and improvise Jazz. We feel so strongly about this stuff that we did a CD, Jazz For Kids that is one of our best sellers. I always make an effort when we tour to do some kids show in the area to build an audience for the future.
CAD: What was New York City like when you first arrived there?
D.L.: When I first got to New York I moved in with a bunch of young musicians from Louisville. About a dozen of us moved to New York at around the same time. So many of us moved to Brooklyn that they used to call it the Louisville ghetto. We pretty much killed the Jazz scene in Kentucky by all leaving at the same time but we all had eyes to make it in the Big Apple. The first day in New York I got three parking tickets and got mugged the second week so I learned fast that it’s not all fun and games. I spent all my money in six months going to Jazz clubs every night to see all the guys live that I had only heard on record.
I didn’t have a piano then and was lucky to get a six-night-a-week gig playing a Jazz duo in the village at the Surf Maid, a club that Joanne Brackeen had played at for years. We played two hours, from 7:00 to 9:00, and got dinner and $5.00. Afterward I would hang at Jazz clubs. On the weekends we would play until 3:00 in the morning, splitting the set with a sing-along pianist. He would bring in the crowds and they would sit around the piano and sing “Those Were The Days My Friends” and junk like that and then we would get up and play Bebop and run them out. That way they would turn over the house and make more money. He would bring a new crowd back in and we would run them out...I was happy to have a piano to play on and a chance to practice. The bass player was a guy that had played with Charlie Parker and had his picture in the book Bird Lives. He was bald, had no front teeth, wore a Muslim skull cap, carried a copy of the Koran and Bird Lives with him. He had spent time in jail for heroin and at that time lived in a flophouse on the Bowery. It cost three dollars a night and he would save his two dollars left over and every three days buy a nickel bag of pot, eat at the club, and that was his life. I did that gig for a couple years.
I was also freelancing and got to do all kinds of gigs all over New York: weddings, parties, nightclubs, Jazz gigs - anything to survive. I really learned my craft then. Not just Jazz playing but how to be a musician in the real world.
After a few years I auditioned for the Jazz vocalist Jon Hendricks. His was one of the few full time road gigs around then so everybody wanted it. They held an open audition and there were at least fifty Jazz pianists there and everybody got to play one song. We all played well, but I was the only guy there in a three-piece suit and I think that was why Jon hired me. I stayed with him as his musical director for four years touring the world and playing all the clubs and festivals.
CAD: What was it like to work with Jon Hendricks and then his daughter, Michele Hendricks?
D.L.: The gig with Jon Hendricks was when I really learned how to be on the road as an international Jazz artist and how to do concerts successfully. At the time I had a choice between music school and traveling with Jon performing at Jazz clubs and festivals with one of the most creative Bebop singers ever. So my four years with Hendricks was my university. Our first tour was in Israel for a series of concerts. Marvin “Smitty” Smith was the drummer and there were four singers including Jon and a bassist. The first gig we had no rehearsal and we were outside in an ancient Roman amp theater in Northern Israel near the border of Lebanon. This was during the war between Lebanon and Israel so there was a lot of military everywhere. Why they had a music festival at that time I will never know. We were playing opposite Airto, the Brazilian drummer, and his band from LA, and John Pattitucci, on bass, so we had to sound good. I was sight reading all the arrangements and they were difficult and demanding. A lot of really up tempos and difficult keys with a lot of blowing for the piano chair. Just as we started the first song a huge gust of wind blew all the charts across the stage so I had to play the show by ear. Nice! We were there a couple weeks and then flew back to New York, drove to San Diego in three days in a van and did a concert with Dizzy Gilespie that night. We toured California and then across the U.S., getting back to New York three months later and did a week in a club there. It really changed my life. For four years after that we were on the road more than we were home and I got road tough. Sometimes Jon Hendricks and I would travel and pick up rhythm sections and sometimes we would take a band. We went to Europe, South America, Canada, all over the U.S. and played regularly in New York. We played with symphonies, did TV shows, festival, clubs, and radio-really everything there was to do. We played opposite everybody from Miles Davis to Count Basie. It was one of the few full time touring Jazz gigs in the 1980s and I loved it. After about six months Jon was nice enough to give me billing and they would announce us as Jon Hendricks and company with David Leonhardt Trio. Musically Jon is a super-talented guy and scatted better solos than most horn players so the pressure to be really top-notch was intense. I knew that if I let him down he would fire me and get the next young piano virtuoso coming up. That is probably the best motivation to be excellent you can have.
Jon and his wife, Judith, who also sang in the group, loved to go to gourmet restaurants and they would often take the whole band. So there was a lot of four-star meals in Europe with fine wines and all that. We would go to France for three months at a time and they would rent a villa for the tour and then do concerts and gigs throughout Europe. A lot of flying and trains and then back to the South of France.
After a while I formed a band with his daughter, Michele Hendricks, who is a great vocalist. We toured for a few years picking up bands in Europe, Japan, and the U.S. We would get gigs in cool places and vacation after the gig was up as long as we could. I had no kids or real obligations so it was like a fantasy really. Being on the road and having people treat you like an artist, staying in resorts at exotic places, playing Jazz all the time, going back to New York and then doing it all over again somewhere else. Between Jon and Michele it was really eight years of Jazz heaven.
CAD: During the past several years we have seen an unprecedented increase in self produced efforts (recordings) by Jazz musicians. What is the history of your own label? Do you view the recordings as being successful both artistically and financially?
D.L.: I started Big Bang recording in 1991 when I moved out of New York. It was a transitional time in the recording industry and records were out and CDs were in. I was able to be in the vanguard of the self-producers, labels by musicians who wanted to take control of their recording life. I had played on and produced a bunch of recordings in the ‘80s and really had no desire to work on anymore projects that weren’t totally under my control. I needed the freedom to pick the musicians, the songs, the studio, and the musical direction or I couldn’t work. I was tired of having someone else look over my shoulder. It really was an awakening for me in terms of understanding what a product music can be and where the benefits go from that. My first two CDs, Departure and Reflections, transformed my career from being sideman to a leader. I got reviews and airplay and was able to use them as a way of starting my touring life as a leader and getting recognition for having my own voice. I now have fifteen under my own name and they all make money and continue to sell. Each has accomplished something concrete artistically as well as being vehicles for me to book concerts around.
Now I sell them on my web site and through various distributors and at my concerts so it is another income stream which helps. My CD Reflections is a trio CD with Peter Washington and Lewis Nash, who I played with in New York. This is one where my trio style was noticed. It is the one that a lot of young musicians at the time listened to. In fact, my bass player now, Mathew Parrish, says it is one of his favorite CDs and I think it is why he plays with me now. My vocal and piano CD A Time for Love enabled me to book an eleven concert tour of Italy with the vocalist Nancy Reed. My Gershwin CD led to about twenty concerts of Gershwin in a modern Jazz interpretation that my band does and I am still booking that. I did Jazz For Kids because we present a Kids concert that is really a blast. There is nothing like playing for hundreds of enthusiastic children and letting them in to the experience and excitement of a Jazz concert. I hope that I am building an audience for the future as well with that.
CAD: The traditional trajectory for many mainstream artists is a ballad date, big band session and strings - are any of those settings in your future?
D.L.: I would like to do a ballad date at some point. The idea of putting together an album where the listener can relax and be transported to a state of trance-like appreciation appeals to the communicator in me. A big band session probably will not happen as I feel more comfortable in small groups of musicians. I did a string album with Fathead a few years back and would like to do one of my own sometime in a more modern vein, not standards but improvised classical/romantic/Chopinesque.
CAD: What was your impression of the portrayal of “Fathead” in the movie Ray?
D.L.: When I play with “Fathead” now it is really like family. I have been on the road with him and his wife on and off for 16 years. We have done Jazz cruises together, stayed in European hotels together, flown together, driven together, stayed for weeks on end in apartments together, recorded together and had countless magical musical moments together. As much as I enjoyed the musical segments in the movie Ray there was nothing in the portrayal of David Newman in that movie that I recognized. That was a totally made up Hollywood version of what some writer thought would make a dramatic friend and musical cohort for Ray Charles. My sincere hope is that the real “Fathead” get a much deserved career boost from the movie.
CAD: One of the more interesting projects that you are involved with is collaborating with a tap dancer...
D.L.: I have been lucky to play with a lot of the older Tap dance masters before they died. It is really like playing with a great Jazz drummer because they know all those rhythms so well. When I was with Jon Hendricks we did a lot of shows and he would bring in these great tap dancers to perform with us-Honi Coles, Buster Brown, Cookie Cook, Sandman Sims. We also played with other dancers, jitterbugers, Lindy Hoppers, and once we did Atlantic City with comedian Redd Foxx and he had two Korean dancers. Later I played with others like Savion Glover and Jimmy Slide, Diane Walker, and also a lot of younger guys. I helped get Manhattan Tap off the ground in the ‘80s when there weren’t any young groups doing tap. I was their musical director and we did a lot of shows in New York and toured Europe, China, Canada, and the U.S. doing concerts. That is where I met my wife, Shelley Oliver, who was one of the founding members of Manhattan Tap. She is an incredible dancer and choreographer and now I tour quite often as musical director with The Shelley Oliver Tap Dancers, her group of five female dancers. Shelley and I have produced seven tap dance CDs Tap Music For Tap Dancers for dancers to jam with for dance classes, and are well known in the tap world.
When we first met in 1989 we were on tour in China with a group of thirty American performers, Jazz dancers, singers, tap dancers, and I had my trio. We were there for about five weeks during the Tienemen Square uprising and got to experience that whole thing. Everywhere we went there were demonstrations that kept getting bigger and bigger. Of course we had no idea what was going on because there was a news blackout in China. We were traveling through the mainland partying hard and performing for huge crowds of thirty thousand people at stadiums and such as guests of the government and then all of a sudden there was no government. They cancelled our performance in Beijing and packed us off. As we left the city the troops were moving in. Then we flew home and found out what had been going on down there.
Now we have been married for thirteen years and have two kids, nine and eleven, and take them on the road with us in a 31-foot Winnebago. We travel with ten performers, five dancers, and five musicians, two kids and two pugs.
CAD: Certainly two of the most intriguing personalities that you performed with were Stan Getz and Woody Shaw. Both men seem to embody musical creativity but were fraught with personal minefields...
D.L.: Both of those guys have notorious reputations but I can’t speak to that as when I played with each they were as nice as can be. I recorded an album with Stan Getz and he acted just like a regular musician. We went over the material in the studio and he even was asking me the changes on the bridge of “Prelude To A Kiss” because he hadn’t played it for awhile. A lot of “Stars” would not be that forthcoming but he just wanted to do a good job and make good music. That session was one of the highlights of my career. As soon as Stan started playing, it was amazing to hear his sound; it was right to me because I was so familiar with it from records. I saw him a few months after that in Italy backstage at a concert and he introduced me to Dexter Gordon and recommended me to him. Stan really was a sweetheart at that point in his life. He was older and seemed to have found a calmness about being who he was.
When I played with Woody Shaw I was playing in a New Year’s Eve gig at a club in New York and it was being broadcast live on NPR coast to coast. They recorded all three sets and anyone who sat in got a check for a hundred dollars. After the first set the word got out in the other clubs and a lot of guys showed up to pick up some quick money. Art Blakey was hanging out with Wood that night and so they both came and sat in for a set. It was a smoking set - all off the cuff, unrehearsed, but amazing music. Wood and Art both were as nice as could be. We were just hanging out and playing. So my take on them was that they were musicians first and emotional human beings second.
CAD: Looking over your sideman work with Herbie Mann, George Benson, Wynton Marsalis and Manhattan Transfer - would you agree that those gigs were generally high paying?
D.L.: To be honest the only time I ever make really good money is when I am the leader. A sideman can make a good living but there are only a few real Jazz gigs that you can live as well as someone who works for a corporation. Maybe three in the world. as you move more in to pop Jazz the money goes up. But I got into music for fun not for money. (And for the chicks when I was younger. You do meet a lot of women as a traveling Jazz artist. Or at least I did when I was single.)
Herbie Mann and I did record Celebration and a live video at Birdland with him and Ron Carter. That paid well as I remember but it was a one-shot deal. Herbie also produced a few records that I was on and always paid double scale, which was lucrative as well. When I played with the singers from Manhattan Transfer, we did a series of concerts at different times but not under the Manhattan Transfer name. We did one tour of the West Coast with them and Bobby McFerrin, Dianne Reeves, and Jon Hendricks with my trio. I don’t remember the money but I am sure it was respectable. Really, when I do those kinds of gigs I don’t care about the money, I just enjoy the music.

Whispers of Contentment
An Original w/ jazz trio

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David Leonhardt Schedule

July 12 An Evening of Gershwin by The David Leonhardt Jazz Group Little Theatre at Centenary College Hackettstown NJ 8:00pm

July 19 David Leonhardt Jazz Group in Concert Wildflower Music Festival A perfect setting for jazz! The Wildflower Music Festival is a marvelous journey into the realm of music set against the majesty of natural beauty. Dorflinger-Suydam Wildlife Sanctuary, White Mills PA http://www.dorflinger.org/wildflower_music/index.htm

August 5 The David Leonhardt Trio Release of their new cd “Explorations”! A new eclectic collection of jazzed up arrangements showcase the improvisational abilities of Leonhardt’s trio in a creative journey set to songs by James Taylor, Eric Clapton, Elton John, George Harrison as well as Horace Silver, Jerome Kern and a handful of memorable originals by Leonhardt.

iTunes link to David Leonhardt CD Explorations http://phobos.apple.com/WebObjects/MZStore.woa/wa/viewAlbum?id=281870817&s=143441

August 11-15 “Shoredance”- Dance Intensive by Shelley Oliver Tap dancers and The David Leonhardt Jazz Group. A five day tap and jazz dance intensive by this group of tap professionals giving students a chance to perform with a world class jazz trio!
Algonquin Arts 60 Abe Voorhees Drive
Manasquan, NJ 08736 Call 732-528-9211 http://www.algonquinarts.com/

August 16 The David Leonhardt Jazz Group w/ Shelley Oliver Tap Dancers in concert. Four dancers Five Musicians. Algonquin ArtsTheatre 60 Abe Voorhees Drive
Manasquan, NJ 08736 Call 732-528-9211 http://www.algonquinarts.com/

August 22 The David Leonhardt Trio Deer Head Inn. Celebrating the release of their new cd “Explorations” This fantastic trio in a historic home for jazz in the Poconos for over 40 years. 7:00 PM $12 music charge. 5 Main Street Delaware Water Gap,PA 18327 570.424.2000 http://www.deerheadinn.com/

August 24 David Leonhardt Jazz Group in Concert Renfrew Park Waynesboro, Pa 2:00-4:00 with special guest artist saxophone legend Houston Person http://www.houstonperson.com/. Free outdoor concert! 1010 East Main Street Waynesboro, PA 17268 717-762-4723 http://www.renfrewinstitute.org/

August 26 The David Leonhardt Trio Westfield Jazz Festival. Playing songs from their new release “Explorations”. Westfield, NJ 7:00 pm

September 3 The David Leonhardt Trio Iridium Jazz Club New York City. Celebrating the release of their new cd “Explorations”

September 17-18 The David Leonhardt Trio “Jazz For Kids” The trio presents their popular children’s show for three days of in area schools. Kinston, NC.

September 18 The David Leonhardt Trio in concert. A performance in conjunction with the opening of the visual arts exhibit "Jam Session" Kinston Community Council for the Arts- Kinston, NC. Playing songs from their new release “Explorations” http://www.kinstoncca.com/

September 26 Jazz and Tap For Kids! Their popular children's show that entertains, educates and inspires!
Smyrna Opera House. Main and South Streets, Smyrna, DE 302-653-4236 http://www.smyrnaoperahouse.org/

September 26
The David Leonhardt Jazz Group w/ Shelley Oliver Tap Dancers in concert. Wilson College 1015 Philadelphia Ave Chambersburg, PA 17201
(717) 264-4141 http://www.wilson.edu/wilson/asp/home.asp

September 27 The David Leonhardt Jazz Group w/ Shelley Oliver Tap Dancers in concert. Smyrna Opera House. Main and South Streets, Smyrna, DE 302-653-4236 http://www.smyrnaoperahouse.org/

October 3 The David Leonhardt Jazz Group w/The Shelley Oliver Tap Dancers Warren County Concert Association Struthers Library Theater, 302 Third Avenue West, Warren pa. Call (607) 936-4647 http://www.wcda.com/Life_Arts.php

David Leonhardt
Leonhardt Music
Big Bang Records


90 Stage coach Drive
Easton, Pa 18042

Explorations (Big Bang) is the latest effort from the David Leonhardt Trio, with Leonhardt's piano work as remarkable as ever. Along with drummer Alvester Garnett and bassist Matthew Parrish, the album is trio jazz in its finest form, with "Whispers Of Contentment/Shouts Of Joys" being the perfect way to welcome the listener in as Leonhardt and Parrish both get to solo while Garnett remains the anchor throughout. Leonhardt's playing is so fluid that you want to listen to him for much longer than the CD provides, and Garnett has a groove about him that is undeniable, he knows how to do the fills and gets into every nook and cranny but without ever playing too much like Elvin Jones or an Art Blakey. Parrish warms up each song beautifully, whether it's straight up jazz or a blues number like "Late Night Blues", where you can imagine a woman coming into the room with nothing on but a smile.

Explorations explores not only Leonhardt's material, but a diverse range of material chosen to cover, such as Elton John's "Your Song", The Beatles' "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" (a nice performance, especially since the guitar is absent), Cream's "Sunshine Of Your Love", and James Taylor's "Fire And Rain", all done with respect to the originals. At times these musicians give the songs a fresh of fresh air, especially the AM-worn "Fire And Rain", proving that a good song is still a good song that just needs the cobwebs cleaned from its crevices. Leonhardt's own "Winter Waltz" would make Dave Brubeck smile as it has the kind of feel the jazz maestro is known for, with the brightness and feel that fans have come to know and love

What also makes it work is that the album was engineered by Parrish and produced by Leonhardt, so you're truly hearing a jazz album from the ground up, as meant to be heard by the musicians.
THE Run Off Groove

David Leonhardt Trio - EXPLORATIONS: Simply superb piano from David, bassist Matthew Parrish and crisp/clear drums by Alvester Garnett on this gem of a CD. There are several originals, all packed with talent that shines from all 3 players, but in this case, the most notable tracks are David's arrangements of tunes like George Harrison's "While My Guitar Gently Weeps", & Clapton's "Sunshine Of Your Love"! He breathes new life into those tracks & elevates them back into their proper place... far above Muzak, & in the Universal realm... I can tell you without qualification that you've NEVER heard interpretations as spirited as these! The recording is excellent; you're able to hear every little nuance, especially on tunes like the opener, "Whispers of Contentment - Shouts of Joy ", definitely my favorite on the album; though in semi-ballad mode, power emanates between Leonhardt's phrasings here! A great jazz album with a new approach to standards that merits our MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED! Get more information (& watch live performances) at p.s. Street date is 5 August, 2008, so get your order in early! Rotcod Zzaj

Dick Metcalf, aka Rotcod Zzaj
95-1107 Hookupu Street
Mililani, HI 96789

DAVID LEONHARDT TRIO/Explorations: Intentional or not? Forget that Leonhardt does a bunch of originals you don’t know and that the covers are from the 60s and 70s. Get past that and this sounds like a spiritual tribute to the original Ramsey Lewis Trio in their pre-”In Crowd” era. Deceptively sounding like cocktail jazz, this is cool, hip stuff that is sly, musical as well as lyrical, and zesty, snappy and tasty throughout. A great hurrah for classic era piano trio jazz. 9577 (Big Bang)


David Leonhardt: Yesterdays
David Leonhardt is an accomplished and lyrical pianist, and though he tackles some interesting choices on this album, he seems most comfortable and most vibrant on the tried and true standards. On this Jerome Kern classic, he and his able trio swing with an easy, dancing and playful swagger. Garnett lets loose with an explosion of cymbals and some penetrating rim shots adeptly placed. Parrish plucks in and around the time, and Leonhardt has a light airy touch that traverses the keyboard with a dance-like quality. His explorations are tasteful and driving, and his rhythm section responds accordingly as he builds to a climax. He ends in a crescendo of chords punctuated with a nice roll by Garnett at the end. A solid piece of straight-ahead piano trio work.


Metro Spirit Augusta Ga
Issue #19.47 :: 06/18/2008 - 06/24/2008
The David Leonhardt Trio

Famous tunes get the jazz treatment in "Explorations"


The David Leonhardt Trio
Big Bang Records

The David Leonhardt Trio's jazz interpretations of some of the famous tunes on their "Explorations" CD are exceptional.

David Leonhardt has 35 years experience as a professional musician. He has played with Stan Getz, The Benny Carter Orchestra and Kenny Washington, to name a few. Drummer Alvester Garnett has played with Wynton Marsalis, Clark Terry and Milt Hinton. Bassist Matthew Parrish has performed or recorded with Marsalis, Terry, Ravi Coltrane and others.

"Explorations" puts a new twist on classic songs. The song "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" is a rock classic by George Harrison. This interpretation by the David Leonhardt Trio follows the classic structure but adapts the tune for jazz.

"Sunshine of Your Love" is another classic rock tune. This one was written by Jack Bruce of Cream. This interpretation is one of the most unusual I have heard.

"Fire and Rain" by James Taylor has been redone into almost a progressive jazz arrangement. Overall, the David Leonhardt Trio has a great sound. "Explorations" is highly recommended for fans of jazz and progressive jazz music.


CD Review: http://www.allmusic.com/cg/amg.dll?p=amg&sql=10:djfqxztjldte

by Michael G. Nastos
David Leonhardt has always been a jazz pianist first, while enamored with the realm of contemporary popular songs. This duality is reflected in this set of standards, originals, and rearrangements of well known hit tunes. While one wonders if there is a real need to do numbers out of the repertoire of The Beatles, Elton John, Cream and James Taylor, Leonhardt and his trio do them with a modified flair and at times thoughtful repast. The extraordinary bassist Matthew Parrish and hot drummer Alvester Garnett help Leonhardt greatly in lifting all of these tracks to a higher interpretive level. The originals of the pianist are, to say the least, interesting. "Whispers Of Contentment - Shouts Of Joy" is a definitive spirit song, lovely in its Zen like invention. "The Dawn Over Morocco" sports impending heavy dramatic modality leading to a brighter day, the title track is a free bop true to its title, and "Winter Waltz" a quicker ice skating number reminiscent of a Vince Guaraldi Charlie Brown tune. "Late Night Blues" is pretty straight laced, and "Iberian Lament" organic, pretty and pensive. The trio does a splendid sprinting version of the Jerome Kern standard "Yesterdays" moving quickly from sideline to sideline, and a gorgeous, near perfect interpretation of Horace Silver's "Peace." Then there's the block chords and light Brazilian take of "While My Guitar Gently Weeps," a waltz to 4/4 saccharine "Your Song," hard bopping and scattershot but barely recognizable "Sunshine Of Your Love," and off melody phrases but otherwise true to form "Fire & Rain." As honest, balanced and flexible a musician as there is in jazz, Leonhardt and this truly excellent trio needs to be heard by a general populist mainstream audience, and likely stretch these tracks out in more intimate live performances.


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David Leonhardt