Her story is compelling. Her journey has been most unconventional. Her career is groundbreaking as she attempts to bring a sense of normalcy to a subject that many people don’t understand, all the while proudly displaying her exceptional skills. She is considered by many to be be one of the finest Jazz bassists in the world.
She began her life with the name John Leitham.
In her professional life, she had played with numerous big names,
including Woody Herman, George Shearing, Bob Cooper, Bill Watrous, and Peggy Lee. She was Mel Torme’s bassist for ten years. For most of that time, she was also a bandleader and studio musician, playing on over one hundred recordings, including five discs under her own name. She married, settled in L.A., but all that while, was struggling to deal with and keep secret her gender identity.
Finally, in a process that was lengthy and painful, physically and
emotionally, she transitioned in 2001 while touring with Doc Severinsen.
She has maintained a vigorous career throughout and has achieved much acclaim and acceptance.
Jennifer has been a featured artist at at many of the world’s most prestigious jazz festivals and clubs. She has recently appeared with her trio at some of the finest venues in the world, including The Blue Note, Iridium, Small's, and Dizzy’s Club Coca Cola in New York, The Toronto Pride Fest, The Bohem Festival in Budapest and The Louis Armstrong Jazz Festival in Bank, Hungary, Mammoth Lakes, Sacramento, and Sweet and Hot Jazz Festivals in California, Blues Alley in Washington DC, Catalina's, Vitello's, Charlie O’s, Cafe 322, Steamers, The Lighthouse, and The Warner Grand Theater in Los Angeles, “KSDS Jazz Live” at the Saville Theater in San Diego, Milford Center for the Arts, Connecticut, The Black Box Theater at Centenary College and Shanghai Jazz in New Jersey, the Cheltenham Center for the Arts, Pa, the Deer Head Inn in the Delaware Water Gap, Pa and a host of others.
Her recent CDs are a reflection of her passion for the medium of “classic jazz trio”. However, this “classic trio” features the bass as the lead voice throughout and highlights both Jennifer’s original compositions, arrangements, and occasionally, her superb vocals.
Jennifer’s new CD, Future Christmas (2014) has been lauded by non other than the venerable genius composer/musician Bob Dorough. He states that "Future Christmas is a triumph!". Other recent CDs include the critically acclaimed Left Coast Story (2008), a collection of requests from her loyal fans, and her biggest seller, an all original tour de force, The Real Me (2006). It announced to the world her true identity, both as a musician and a person.
Her DVD "The Real Me Live" is a live in concert rendering of the music from the groundbreaking CD. The 2011 release, also available as an audio download, is crackling with intensity, passion, and virtuosity!
Leitham’s other internationally renowned CD's include Two for the Road (1999), Live (1997) Lefty Leaps In (1996) The Southpaw (1992) Leitham Up (1988) and the audio download The Real Me Live (2011)
Jennifer is the subject of a documentary by film maker Andrea Meyerson, "I Stand Corrected", winner of many film festival Audience Choice and Jury Awards for best film on the worldwide festival circuit.
Here is what the critics are saying about Jennifer :
“The world that Leitham has moved in since the early ’80s has been at the center of the highest levels of jazz performance. More than 100 recordings as an A-list bassist, eight CDs of her own, long-term stints with Mel Tormé, Doc Severinsen and the Woody Herman Thundering Herd as well as appearances with the likes of Gerry Mulligan, Joe Pass, Louis Bellson, Bill Watrous, Cleo Laine and dozens of others attest to the far-ranging versatility of her playing”. JazzTimes 2009, Don Heckman.
"As a soloist, Leitham is in a class by herself. At the core of her powers are a rich plummy sound, an astonishing virtuosity, unerring intonation and a deep sense of swing. Leitham’s trio, to borrow from the argot of rock, is a power group extraordinaire." - Topeka Capitol Journal 2009, Chuck Berg
“...prodigious technique and improvisatory prowess promptly erase any emotion except awe." 52nd St. Jazz, Robert Bragonier
“Left handed virtuoso of the upright bass.” Los Angeles Times, Leonard Feather
"Combining her astonishing virtuosity with some exquisite soul, Jennifer Leitham brings in her trio to celebrate the success of her latest album, The Real Me. Some nice tunes on that one. She, (and her trio), make an organic whole that is really something live ... and something that all kinds of fans get into."
LA Weekly - Brick Wahl
"Jennifer Leitham is an extremely compelling diva of the upright acoustic bass. She is one of the few practitioners of her instrument, of any gender, genre, or generation, who can completely command my attention with what is, essentially, an entire set of bass solos." Wall Street Journal, Will Friedwald
"I Stand Corrected is a remarkable documentary about a remarkable human being, Jennifer Leitham.
The best part of this documentary is the discovery of a truly major American musical mind. Listening to the way Jennifer plays, one has the impression that no obstructions exist between the ideas in her head and their expression on the instrument. And her ideas are by no means simple but profound and complex. Furthermore, she has a great sense of swing. This, indeed, is her real genius: She is able to compress her complicated thinking into rhythms that are not hard to follow, that speak to the body directly. There is no poetry without music, no music without the dance. Jennifer Leitham is an American original." The Stranger, Seattle 2012, Charles Mudede