This Rhythm On My Mind
Wycliffe Gordon and Jay Leonhart | Bluesback Records (2007)
By Mark F. Turner
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In times of social, political, and global challenges, music has always helped to ease the burdens of the people. Jazz artists such as trumpeter Louis Armstrong did more than just play instruments; they were also entertainers that spirited listeners into better times. This Rhythm On My Mind remembers those sentiments.
The recording features two prominent musicians—trombonist Wycliffe Gordon and bassist Jay Leonhart—who not only play their respective instruments with complete expertise, but also prove to be jazz troubadours with surprising, clever voices.
Gordon, one of today’s premier trombonists, with tone and control that few peers can match, came to notoriety playing with trumpet icon Wynton Marsalis, and he's proven his merit all the more on his own recordings. Leonhart, an astute bass player, has performed in settings ranging from Dixieland banjo to swinging his axe in bands with Thad Jones, Mel Lewis and Tony Bennett. He’s produced his own recordings and proven that it’s not impossible to play the bass and sing at the same time.
The two collaborate wonderfully on these thirteen exuberant compositions, which are balanced by jazz and voice. The rapport shared by the two musicians is contagious as they perform and sing lighthearted anecdotes on love, loss, and friendship. Like the reunion of two long-lost friends who have a lot of catching up to do, the music covers a lot of ground—New Orleans swing (“Rhythm On My Mind”), blues humor (“I Want My Blooze Back”), and even a jail break (“Little Henry”).
They throw in memorable tunes for good measure: “Missin RB Blues” is dedicated to the late bassist Ray Brown, and “Eddie Harris (Freedom Jazz Band)” features guest sax player Wayne Escoffery and Gordon playing an Australian didgeridoo. Infused with humor, harmony, scatting, vocal invention and excellent music, This Rhythm On My Mind is an enjoyable experience.
Visit Wycliffe Gordon and Jay Leonhart on the web. See: http://www.allaboutjazz.com/php/news.php?id=12249
"Wycliffe Gordon and Jay Leonhart have joined forces to create a powerful duo that takes no prisoners. Whether at Dizzy's in Lincoln Center or The Naples Philharmonic or at jazz venues world-wide, this duo is combines virtuostic musicianship with powerful original music and lyrics that keeps audiences delighted and entertained every second that these two jazz icons are on the stand."
WMPG Jazz Radio top 10 January 7, 2007
#1 in airplay
WYCLIFF GORDON/JAY LEONHART *
This Rhythm on My Mind *
BLUESBACK RECORDS *
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Jay Leonhart was born on December 6, 1940, in Baltimore Maryland. His parents, sisters, and brothers (6 kids in all), were all musically inclined. Everyone played the piano. By the age of 7, Jay and his older brother Bill were playing banjos and guitars and mandolins and basses. They played country music, jazz -- anything with a beat. In their early teens, Jay and Bill were television stars in Baltimore and were touring the country performing on their banjos.
When Jay was fourteen he started playing the bass in The Pier Five Dixieland Jazz Band in Baltimore and never looked back. After studying at The Peabody Institute, Jay attended The Berklee School of Music and The Advanced School of Contemporary Music in Toronto, before leaving school to start touring with the traveling big bands of the late 50's and early 60's.
At 21, Jay moved to New York City to start his career and to proceed on his oddessy towards adulthood. He played lots of funky road gigs with big bands, small bands and singers and visited all the little jazz joints around the world. In 1968, he met and married a lovely young singer named Donna Zier and settled down in New York. Jay and Donna Leonhart have also raised two very musically inclined children, Michael and Carolyn, who perform with Steely Dan, among other notables.
Upon moving to New York, Jay eventually began playing for many of the great jazz musicians, big bands, and singers who were to be found in New York - artists like Thad Jones and Mel Lewis, Tony Bennett, Marian McPartland, and Jim Hall. The list goes on and on, and Jay has continued to work with many of the great jazz musicians of the twentieth century.
Jay became a very busy studio musician in New York City, visiting every musical genre from James Taylor to Ozzy Osbourne and Queen Latifah. Between 1975 and 1995 he was named The Most Valuable Bassist in the recording industry three times by the National Association of Recording Arts and Sciences.
Jay has now recorded 15 solo albums - all the while knowing that he would some day begin performing one man shows made up of these many songs about his life in music. “The Bass Lesson” is the first example. This show is being received warmly by critics and audiences and appears to have a nice long life ahead of it.
Jay's next show “Nukular Tulips” is in the works.
In his 1959 Loyola High School year book, Jay Leonhart was named “The Most Witty” in his class. Forty six years later with “The Bass Lesson” and “Nkular Tulips”, we find out why.
Wycliffe Gordon enjoys an extraordinary career as a performer, conductor, composer, arranger, and educator, receiving high praise from audiences and critics alike. Gordon tours the world performing hard-swinging, straight-ahead jazz for audiences ranging from heads of state to elementary school students. His trombone playing, hailed as "mixing powerful, intricate runs with sweet notes extended over clean melodies," has been universally hailed by jazz critics. Gordon received the Jazz Journalists Association 2002 and 2001 Award for Trombonist of the Year, the Jazz Journalists Association 2000 Critics’ Choice Award for Best Trombone and has been nominated for the Jazzpar Award.
In addition to a thriving solo career, he tours regularly leading the Wycliffe Gordon Quartet, headlining at legendary jazz venues throughout the world. Gordon is a former veteran member of the Wynton Marsalis Septet, The Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra, and The Gully Low Jazz Band, and has been a featured guest artist on Billy Taylor's "Jazz at The Kennedy Center" Series. Gordon’s extensive performance experience includes work with many of the most renowned jazz performers of the past and present.
Wycliffe is now joining with Jay Leonhart in performaning their music around the globe.
Jay Leonhart Born: January 06, 1940 Baltimore, MD
Styles: Hard Bop, Hard Bop , Post-Bop, Swing, Bop
A superior bassist, Jay Leonhart has also had a parallel and sometimes overlapping career as a witty lyricist and occasional singer. As a child he attended the Peabody Conservatory (1946-50) and by the time he went to the Berklee College of Music (1959-61), Leonhart was a jazz musician. He played with Buddy Morrow (1961) and Mike Longo (1962-63) and then became a busy freelance musician in New York. Among Leonhardt's many associations were Marian McPartland (with whom he recorded in 1971), Jim Hall, Urbie Green, Chuck Wayne (1976), Phil Woods, Gerry Mulligan, Lee Konitz, Don Sebesky, Louie Bellson and pianist Mike Renzi. Leonhart started becoming well-known as a lyricist in the 1980's when he began leading his own recording sessions and started having his songs being recorded by other singers. As a leader, Jay Leonhart has recorded for DMP (1983), Sunnyside (1984 and 1988), Nesak (1990) and DRG (1993). ~ Scott Yanow, All Music Guide
About Wycliffe and Jay
From "All About Jazz" New York
The second portion of the first half featured the appearance of the duo of trombonist Wycliffe Gordon (10th time at Highlights) and bassist/vocalist Jay Leonhart (tied for first place with 28). Promoting a new album, Gordon, of Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra fame, and Leonhart made an unusual pairing a particularly entertaining one. The key to their success is jocularity, whether on a quirky version of the inevitable “Alone Together” or Leonhart’s farcical paean to international animal smuggling, “Why Are You Detaining Me.” The esteemed standard “Lester Leaps In” featured a nifty segment where Gordon and Leonhart scatted in the style of each other’s instruments while Leonhart updated Eddie Harris’ “Freedom Jazz Dance” with some quietly beautiful and brilliant lyrics.