Jennifer Leitham | The Real Me

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The Real Me

by Jennifer Leitham

All of Jennifer's talents are on full display here, the former Mel Torme' and Doc Severinsen bassist's playing, composing, arranging and singing creates music that appeals to a diverse spectrum of listeners.
Genre: Jazz: Jazz Fusion
Release Date: 

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1. C.O.D.
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2. The Studio City Stomp
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3. Turkish Bizarre
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4. Stick It In Your Ear
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5. Beat The Meatles
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6. Keni's Song
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7. The Altered Blues
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8. Split Brain
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9. Lefty Leaps In
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10. Riff Raff
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11. The Trashman Cometh
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Album Notes
Jennifer Leitham

"The Real Me"

Featuring The Jennifer Leitham Trio

Jennifer Leitham left handed bass, vocals
Josh Nelson piano
Randy Drake drums, udo
Special guest John Clayton bass on "Riff Raff"

--Short Bio & "The Real Me" Liner Notes--
Jennifer Leitham Short Bio:

Jennifer Jane Leitham has been referred to by noted jazz critic Leonard Feather as the "left-handed virtuoso of the upright bass." In addition to her successful performance career, Jennifer has appeared on over 100 recordings with some of the giants of jazz music. In addition, she has recorded 6 highly acclaimed CDs of her own.

Jennifer is best known for her decade long stints with both Mel Torme’ and Doc Severinsen. She has appeared with many distinguished artists including Woody Herman, George Shearing, Gerry Mulligan, Peggy Lee, Joe Pass, Cleo Laine, Louis Bellson, Pete Rugolo, Bill Watrous, and numerous others. She has also been a member of the Tonight Show All-Stars, The Woody Herman Thundering Herd, Benny Carter Quintet, Bob Cooper Quartet, and more.

Jennifer has been invited to perform as a featured artist or group member at almost every major jazz festival in North America and many overseas. She is also enthusiastically received as a presenter at workshops and clinics around the country, including the International Society of Bassists convention this past year.

Jennifer's own highly regarded CD's include Leitham Up, The Southpaw, Lefty Leaps In, Live ! , and Two for the Road, (a duo performance with guitar virtuoso Jimmy Bruno). Her new CD, The Real Me features her original compositions, arrangements, and for the first time, her singing voice!

Words of high praise for Jennifer Jane Leitham and these recordings come from many of today's jazz critics and publications :

"Combining her astonishing virtuosity with some exquisite soul, Jennifer Leitham brings in her trio (pianist Josh Nelson, drummer Randy Drake) to celebrate the release of her latest album, The Real Me. Some nice tunes on that one."[Brick Wahl-LA Weekly]

"prodigious technique and improvisatory prowess promptly erase any emotion except awe." [J. Robert Bragonier-52nd St. Jazz].

"As an improviser, Leitham has few peers." [Bill Kolhaase-LA Times]

"a unique effortlessly improvise with imagination, incredible skill and even a bit of humor." [Jim Ferguson, Jazz Times]

" swinging high-energy performances and remarkable technique....." [John T. Bitter-musicHound Jazz]

"The Real Me" Inside Cover Liner Notes:

Helen's Notes:

I am PROUD to be a part of this project! I think Jennifer’s courage and joy are inspiring and infectious. She seems so wonderfully happy with who she is, and so accepting of her journey. I mention her bio because I think people who did not know her as John will wonder where she came from and why this disc is called The Real Me. I think people should know what she’s celebrating.

Jennifer Leitham (pronounced LIGHT em) began life as John Leitham. In fourth grade, he participated in a talent show with three other kids, each playing a different member of the Beatles. John played Paul, who played the bass left-handed, and thus began a career as an ambidextrous person who played left-handed bass.

In his professional life, John had played with numerous big names, including Woody Herman, George Shearing, Bob Cooper, Bill Watrous, and Doc Severinsen. He was Mel Torme’s bassist for over ten years.

For most of that time, he was also a bandleader, recording five discs under his own name. He married, settled in L.A., but all the while, struggled to deal with and keep secret his gender identity.

Finally, in a process that was lengthy and painful, both physically and emotionally, he transitioned into Jennifer and she has never been happier!

She revels in her freedom and her new body. She is exuberant about the path her life has taken. She is not shy about discussing her transition, the years of trying to hide her feelings, the pain of the process, nor the joy in the outcome. She dares to be herself and dares us to know her.

I've listened to “The Real Me”, and it's WONDERFUL!!! This trio sounds great! Being used to the "old" recordings of "The Studio City Stomp," "Stick It In Your Ear," "Lefty Leaps In," "Split Brain," and "The Trashman Cometh," it was a surprise to hear how full they all sounded without the horns of the originals. But the biggest surprise was hearing Jennifer sing! GREAT lyrics and she sounds really good!! Who knew she could sing?! It is, I must confess, a strange experience to hear her singing voice because I can hear the voice I used to know in it. It is an experience unlike any I've had before. BUT, it will not affect most people like that, I know. They'll just dig it! I was typing notes while listening to the disk the first time, and wasn't paying attention to the order of the tunes and all of a sudden I heard -- or thought I heard -- "Hey, Jude." I looked at the tune titles..."Beat the Meatles"... very funny!!!"

Her music, so often very personal in conception, is exhorting all of us to be ourselves, to celebrate life, to find the humor in our condition, to know it can be endured and conquered!

I think her experience will help others. People need to know that they are free to be who they are! And that they should feel good about it!

On the other hand, her music stands on its own. No mention need be made about her gender at all!

Helen Borgers
Afternoon Drive Jazz Host

Jennifer’s Notes:

As Helen mentioned, some of these tunes have already been recorded. The conundrum of having my former name attatched to my most popular songs inspired me to re-record them in order to show my proper identity. The radio hosts won’t have to explain my situation anymore!

I've been playing with my current trio on a regular basis for a few years, and we've grown immeasurably since our first performances. Josh and Randy are accomplished players and wonderful people. They are among the finest musicians I've ever had the privilidge of playing with. Their contributions here are beyond measure.

Helen focused on "Beat the Meatles". I wrote it as a tribute, as the Beatles were a big influence in my early years. I wrote a crazy quilt of melodies lifted from Beatles songs juxtaposed over rhythmic and harmonic motifs based on Beatle ideas.

"The Altered Blues" is a musical mood piece that deals with Gender Identity Disorder. I named it for my surgeon, Dr. (Gary) Alter. It contains a continuous drone of "D" and "G" notes throughout. They never go away, and are prevalent in each chord. Long ago in my preschool days my family lived near a church that rang its bells all day long. There were two notes, "D" and "G". Those "D" and "G" notes found their way into my subconcious.

Gender Identity Disorder is a similar thing: it's always there; it doesn't go away. You can try to fight it but you won't be successful. It's only learning to accept GID and “make music” with it that enables you to have a happy, healthy life. And that's what happens in "The Altered Blues". We try to make music with those notes that won't go away.

"Split Brain" is a tune that I wrote a long time ago. My ex had a degree in Experimental Psychology and thought (back in our early years together), that my conundrum was the result of a condition known as a "Split Brain". One side of the brain doesn't work well with the other. I titled the tune back in 1984. As it turns out, my ambidexterity proves that my brain is actually more integrated than most people! The lyric is a more recent development. It's become a tune that is about acceptance of one's true self and the ramifications involved. I kept the title just to be perverse.

"Riff Raff" was written at the request of the founder and producer of the Topeka Jazz Festival, the late Jim Monroe. This recorded version is dedicated to his memory. One of the highlights of the festival was a set in which all of the bassists played as an ensemble. Each bassist was asked to contribute an arrangement. I wrote "Riff Raff" for the 2004 performance. There were six basses to write for, all unique artists, and I tried to tailor each part to fit their expertise. The most difficult part was written for John Clayton and he played it with amazing mastery. I was very impressed. While conversing with John at a social occasion I mentioned that I was planning to record the piece and he volunteered his services. I was planning to overdub all the parts myself, but it made sense to add another human voice in order to keep the piece from becoming robotic. John made the session magical when he played his parts on Ray Brown's bass. We layered our parts two at a time, starting at the bottom, then the top, then we filled in the middle. What transpires is a musical jigsaw puzzle of me trading two bar phrases with myself, John trading phrases with himself, and every other permutation of that imaginable. It's best appreciated through headphones. My amazing engineer, Andy Waterman, spread the seven parts across the sonic spectrum, just as you would hear it performed in concert by seven basses. (I added a part at the session).

“C.O.D.” is the first tune I’ve ever written in anger. It deals with a particularly frustrating musical and personal experience. I only reveal the full title in private. (Guess I still hide some things).

“Keni’s Song” is for my dear friend who has been a welcome angel and a big part of my journey. She was with me through my first hospital experiences and was invaluable. My surgery was more difficult than most and my recovery was a long process. Playing my bass was the activity that kept my spirits up. I couldn’t accept gigs that required me to carry my bass and gear. Consequently I spent long hours practicing and eventually performing alone in my friend Ginger’s living room. The happy result was that I developed a sizeable repitoire of solo pieces. I plan on recording a CD of all solo bass pieces in the future.

"Stick It In Your Ear" was a song that I wrote in the early '90's. I was thinking of Mel Torme' when I wrote it and really wanted him to sing the vocal. I recorded it on "The Southpaw" as an instrumental and played it for him. He approved of the melody, but I never worked up the nerve to show him the lyric I had written. I tore up the lyric sheet a long time ago and had forgotten most of the words, but my newly resurrected singing voice led me to write a new set.

I became a musician because of my singing voice. I was a soloist in my high school chorus, and it drew the attention of the rock and roll garage band set. The first few years of my musical career I held an electric bass and sang. My ability to hear a line on a record and play it while singing were my entry tools into the trade of being a professional musician. I eventually started a long, intense period of private study that introduced me to my lifelong obsession with the string bass and higher forms of music. My high pitched voice was something of an embarrasment, as my secret self was manifesting in many ways. I stopped singing for close to thirty years because of the fear and paranoia that surrounded my public persona.

There is no reason to hide anymore and unlocking my singing voice has been a source of great joy. I plan to strive to improve as a vocalist in the same manner as I've always striven to improve as a bassist, musician, and human being.

Jennifer Leitham
July 14, 2006

The Real Me
Sinistral Records SRCD-0020

Producer: Jennifer Leitham
Associate Producer: Scott Whitfield

Recorded April 10, 11, and May 9, 2006
Recorded, mixed, and masterered at:
Entourage 5.1 Studios, North Hollywood, CA
Engineer: Andy Waterman
Assistants: Ashburn Miller, Stacey Carson

Cover and inside portrait photography: Mary Ann Halpin
Makeup and hair: Donna Gast
Trio photograph: Jeff Michelson

Jennifer is an artist/clinician for Hofner String Instruments and plays the Hofner String Bass model H5/12-BV. She uses Acoustic Image amplification, Raezer’s Edge Speakers, Wilson Pickup Systems, and LaBella Strings.

Jennifer Leitham “The Real Me”

All compositions and arrangements by Jennifer Leitham (BMI)Sinistral Music
copyright 2006 all rights reserved

1. C. O. D. 4:44
Jennifer Leitham bass, Josh Nelson piano, Randy Drake drums

2. The Studio City Stomp 4:53
Jennifer Leitham bass, fingersnaps, Josh Nelson piano, Randy Drake drums, fingersnaps, Scott Whitfield fingersnaps

3. Turkish Bizarre 8:26
Jennifer Leitham bass, Josh Nelson piano, Randy Drake drums, udo

4. Stick It In Your Ear 4:24
Jennifer Leitham bass, vocal, Josh Nelson piano, Randy Drake drums

5. Beat The Meatles 6:04
Jennifer Leitham bass, Josh Nelson piano, Randy Drake drums

6. Keni’s Song 5:42
Jennifer Leitham bass

7. The Altered Blues 6:39
Jennifer Leitham bass, Josh Nelson piano, Randy Drake drums

8. Split Brain 5:11
Jennifer Leitham bass, vocal, Josh Nelson piano, Randy Drake drums

9. Lefty Leaps In 5:16
Jennifer Leitham bass, Josh Nelson piano, Randy Drake drums

10. Riff Raff 4:06
Jennifer Leitham bass 1, 4, 5, 7, John Clayton bass 2, 3, 6

11. The Trashman Cometh 8:02
Jennifer Leitham bass, Josh Nelson piano, Randy Drake drums

Contact Jennifer Leitham

c/o Sinistral Music
11333 Moorpark St #110
Studio City, Ca 91602



to write a review

Not Qualified!

Marvelous music---wide open, confident, every cut sings.
Looking forward to the all solo bass CD Jennifer mentions in her remarks because Keni's Song simply moves, in every sense of that word. But then so do all the other cuts on this CD. I'm not a musician, just a fan, but i can easily imagine lovers of nearly any kind of music finding joy and fun listening to this CD.

Vincent Pelote

A fantastic CD by a very talented musician/composer/vocalist!
Any one who digs jazz bass will immediately fall in love with this CD. The playing of Jennifer Leitham whether solo or in a supporting role is simply fantastic. Ms. Leitham also proves that she can write very good tunes and on top of that she also has a very charming singing voice. I anxiously look forward to her next release, but until then, I will thoroughly continue to enjoy "The Real Me."

J. W. Morgan

The legacy of the accoustic bass in Jazz is in good hands!
The legacy of the accoustic bass in Jazz is in good hands! In the post Ray Brown and Ron Carter era, we have Stan Clark, Charlie Hayden, et al. And we have Jennifer Leitham, right at home in that august company. What? You don't know her work? You can now hear this virtuoso's own compositions are they are meant to be heard -- up close and personal, sensitively recorded, backed by dear friends with top-flight keyboard and drum talents -- as close to a live set as a studio recording gets. This is the Jennifer Leitham I can listen to for hours in a club, minus the clinking glasses and the clattering plates and occasional, loud customers ignoring the gifts she gives all of us so generously and consistently. Now you can have her and her remarkable combo all to yourself. Enjoy! I gave this CD four stars only because I know there is more magic yet to go to CD, and if we are fortunate, Jennifer will treat us to more expressions of heart and hands and voice in the years to come. Thanks, Jen, for taking us with you.


The Real Me is the 7th CD release for bassist Jennifer Leitham. She has already had an astounding career; performing on over 100 recordings, has played with jazz greats such as Gerry Mulligan, Peggy Lee, Mel Torme, Woody Herman, Louie Bellson, Bill Watrous and Joe Pass, and has been a member of the Tonight Show All-Stars, the Benny Carter Quintet, to name a few. But enough of the name dropping – Jennifer Leitham has her own sovereignty as a bassist/singer/songwriter. The Real Me is proof – a brilliant collective of 11 original jazz compositions. One track alone warrants owning this CD – Beat the Meatles, self described as “a crazy quilt of melodies lifted from Beatles songs juxtaposed over rhythmic & harmonic motifs based on Beatle ideas.” There is also a remake of one of her earlier recordings and what may be endeared as her greatest hit yet “Studio City Stomp” – a catchy as hell song I defy you to get out of your head after the first listen. Jennifer engages the stand up bass with an ingenious intensity of both mad scientist and passionate lover. But don’t get scared off yet; there are beautifully relaxing and sometimes humorous traits to this record that balances out a well rounded production that you’d expect from a seasoned jazz artist. Tracks like Keni’s Song prove Jennifer can hold her own as an “a cappella bassist”, so to speak. Consider it an enjoyable sneak preview to a CD she has future plans to record; an anthology of all solo bass pieces. The experience is doubled-down with a special appearance by reknown bassist John Clayton for a round of collaborative two-bar bass exchanges on Riff Raff. Players John Nelson (piano) and Randy Drake (drums) supply the rest of the musical provisions, both contributing remarkable solo work on top of already amazing accompaniment.

Hélène Eschbach

a double bass festival
reading the eulogistic cd review in a french jazz magazine, I got to know The Real Me: Philippe Carles, the redaction manager, wrote that it is a delightful work, a double bass festival, a succession of happiness, where Jennifer proves that the best in her, can finally blossom! I completely agree, Jennifer is a skilful, virtuoso and precise bass player and composer; and her westcoast partners are up to the job she entrusts them : to create a jewelry case for her talent as a bass player, as a jazzwoman.


I am not a jazz critic, my forte is classic rock, I play electric bass, lefthanded. This CD is fun, exciting, happy, carefree, and upbeat. There is so much energy and love of life. This CD means more to me than music alone, my path is similar to Jennifer's and I totally understand the 'Real Me' aspect, the freedom to finally be the person you are supposed to be, need to be, and to celebrate that.

F. Hoffman

Joyful and uplifting!!!!
I am not a jazz expert -- in fact I am very new to jazz...but this is a phenomenal CD. It plays to my heart each time I play the CD...lifting me from my sadness. One moment it is seductive and the next it is right out there...lyrical, emotional, conversational!!!

Jennifer is exceptional whether taking the lead or background. Josh and Randy were equally stellar and perfectly balanced partners. And ,John the guest artist slid right in!!!!

Perfectly balanced with lots of creativity and much joy!

Zak Klemmer

Jennifer's origional compositions shine, keeping our beloved genre alive!
“The Real Me” – A Review by Zak Klemmer
The Jennifer Leitham Trio: Jennifer Leitham, Bass; Randy Drake, Drums and Josh Nelson, Piano. John Clayton, Bass; on track 10 Riff Raff. They are in top form and are successors to jazz greats of the past, keeping our beloved genre alive.

This is a classic work! Jennifer’s original compositions shine. All Jazz lovers should purchase this CD immediately as you will be as thrilled as I am. This disc made me fall in love with jazz all over again;)

I’ve had the opportunity to hear these three artists playing live on many occasions and this disc captures all the energy and passion of their live sessions, well to the extent possible by mechanical means. My 125 watt Marantz SR8400 amp, Pioneer Elite DVD player and Klipsch Heresys and subwoofer really allow the disc to soar!


Ms. Leitham's mastery over both her instrument and the form/genre is both stunning and refreshing. After listening to it the first time I had thought of writing something familiar, something clever; "Leitham's "Real Me" is Mingus meets Entwistle." But then I listened a second and third time and I would defend it in a court of law; Mingus and Entwistle meet Leitham and are all the richer for it. I am taken by a couple tracks specifically; Turkish Bizarre, in which she seemingly pay homage to Diz, Keni's Song...just mind-blowing, so pure, so full, so textured, The Altered Blues, at the opening meters I hear Waits'(Tom) "voice" in her heavy string work, that's how Jennifer's arrangement and playing effected me anyway. And lest I forget, Nelson and Drake are equally astonishing in their own right and the Trio delivers every piece collaboratively and with ease. Much more can and should be said about these artists, but I'll cease before I end up incoherent; the ramblings of a 30 yr "retired" muso.

Thank you Ms. Leitham & Co. for delivering it right in the pocket and on a Master Class on all levels.


Mark Bernier
Jackie Frost Films

Diane O

I got this CD about a week ago and I listen to it almost daily during my drive time and it takes my mind off of the trials and tribulations of my daily commute, I love the song "Stick It Your Ear"
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