Jay Leonhart, John Bunch, and Bucky Pizzarelli have been performing and recording as a trio for ten years. This is their 7th CD. The others will soon be listed on CDBaby. John Bunch has had a long and distinguished career even if his abilities as an accompanist and supportive player have long led to him often being taken for granted. He started on piano when he was 11 and within a year was playing in local clubs.
Bunch, a flexible pianist who was most inspired by Teddy Wilson, generally played locally until working with the big bands of Woody Herman (1956-1957), Benny Goodman, and Maynard Ferguson (1958) when he was already in his mid-thirties. Bunch worked in the small groups of Buddy Rich, Al Cohn/Zoot Sims, and Gene Krupa (1961-1964), was a member of Rich's 1966 big band and accompanied Tony Bennett during 1966-1972. Off and on with Goodman during the '60s and '70s, Bunch also recorded five albums as a leader during 1975-1977 for Famous Door, Chiaroscuro (an exquisite solo piano set of Kurt Weill compositions later reissued on CD), and Progressive. In the 1980s and '90s, John Bunch has often been employed by young mainstream stars such as Scott Hamilton and Warren Vache and has recorded for Concord, Chiaroscuro, and Arbors.
With Bucky Pizzarelli and Jay Leonhart, Bunch currently co-leads New York Swing. Bunch has appeared in many solo concerts, including Carnegie Hall and most of the world's capitals, and made many television appearances here and abroad. He's conducted the bands of Duke Ellington, Woody Herman, Count Basie, and Buddy Rich, along with the London Philharmonic, the L.A. Philharmonic, and the Cleveland Orchestra. His original compositions have been recorded by Benny Goodman, Woody Herman, Joe Morello, and Warren Vache Jr. -
For more than half a century, John "Bucky" Pizzarelli has been a part of the fraternity of musicians who have kept mainstream and traditional jazz alive. The list of big bands and vocalists with whom Bucky has performed and recorded reads like a veritable Who's Who of Jazz. Bucky Pizzarelli is a superior guitarist who swing musicians in particular appreciate. Bucky Pizzarelli, father of John Pizzarelli, Jr., has been a fixture in jazz and the studios since the early '50s.
He learned to play banjo and guitar when he was young. At the age of 17 he toured with Vaughan Monroe's dance band, which he re-joined (after military service) in 1946; he made recordings with the band for RCA and also played on the radio. In 1952 he joined the staff of NBC. For many years, at NBC, he played in the Doc Severinson Band on the Tonight Show.
After touring for two years with the Three Suns trio, he returned to New York to work in the recording studios and as a freelance. He appears on many recordings as part of the rhythm section. One of the era's most solid rhythm players, Pizzarelli was in high demand to provide propulsion and background for other musicians. He played and toured with Benny Goodman, forming a close association with him that lasted until Goodman's death; he also led his own trio and recorded duos with Zoot Sims (1976), Bud Freeman (1975), Stephane Grappelli (1979) and his son John (from around 1981).
Pizzarelli plays a seven-string electric guitar; the extra string (tuned to A) allows him to play a bass line to his own solos. He is known not only for his exceptional solo performances on the electric instrument, but also for his proficiency as a classical guitarist. He is also a Faculty Member Emeritus of William Paterson College in Wayne, NJ.
His recordings as leader began to appear in the 1970's with recordings like Green Guitar Blues. On this recording Pizzarelli established a pattern he repeated throughout his career, that is, playing and recording some of the great historic guitar compositions from the 1930s. On this recording he pays homage to Carl Kress and Dick McDonough by including Chicken A La Swing. A few years later he paid tribute to these two guitarists again on his Guitar Quintet LP. On April Kisses (1999), he includes original music by Carl Kress, George Van Eps and George M. Smith.
Bucky Pizzarelli has carried forward other jazz guitar traditions as well. His extraordinary skill as a rhythm player places him in the company of the great rhythm players like Freddie Greene and Barry Galbraith. He has brought forward the great chord solo tradition begun by George Van Eps and Dick McDonough. Like George Van Eps, Bucky Pizzarelli adopted the seven-string electric guitar (in fact, playing the Gretsch Van Eps model for many years). And, although this guitar is very popular today, for many years Bucky Pizzarelli was considered the only guitarist next to George Van Eps to play the seven string electric guitar exclusively.
Along with being a dedicated conservator of the old guitar music and the early styles of playing, Bucky Pizzarelli has also developed a very personal style that sets him apart. Recordings like Love Songs and NY Swing present a picture of the complete jazz musician and guitarist who moves effortlessly from the daunting format of the solo guitar to playing solid, swinging rhythm and single string solos in an ensemble setting.Jay Leonhart
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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.See all CDs
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Roots and Influences
aka. James Chancellor Leonhart
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