Left Coast Story
This page pertains to the original issue of Left Coast Story.
On the 2nd pressing, the cover art was changed. There was much confusion as to the meaning of the 1st cover, so it was decided to add a less mysterious photo for all future printings. As per CD Baby's rules about changing cover art, this site will be closed once the remaining stock has been sold and there will be a new submission with the new cover. Everything else about the CD will remain the same, all music, inside cover, etc. Who knows, maybe this version will become highly valuable as a collector's item!
“Left Coast” has several connotations. It is used in reference to politics, to weather, and to location on a printed map, among other things. But for the many loyal fans of Jennifer Leitham, this Left Coast Story is the long-awaited result of several requests for her versions of music from West Side Story to be available on a CD. It is a “Left Coast Story” because the disc was recorded in southern California by L.A. musicians, and the leader of the trio plays the bass left-handed. “Left Coast” also implies unconventionality, and that’s the real story on this disc! This is not a “standard” jazz trio album.
Take for example, the solo bass version of “Cast Your Fate to the Wind.” Jennifer makes the bass sound as though the bass viol was originally intended to be a solo instrument, to be handled more like a guitar than the giant time keeper and low voice it usually is. Her rendition of this jazzy pop tune is pyrotechnical, compelling, and contemporary, as she plays melody and rhythm. She plays great throughout the disc, but this piece demonstrates clearly why noted jazz critic Leonard Feather called her “the left-handed virtuoso of the upright bass.”
Another unconventional treat on this recording is the presence of Richard Greene on violin and John Chiodini on the dobro-mandolin. Greene pioneered (with mandolinist David Grisman) a style of music called “New Grass,” a blend of jazz and bluegrass, among other styles. Jennifer’s original “Studio City Stomp” works well in this treatment. It includes Jennifer performing a kind of Slam Stewart-like vocal-and-bass solo in addition to singing the offbeat melody. The vocals on this are not unexpected as Jennifer did some swinging vocals on her previous disc. She’s already proven she can deliver a fast-paced, tongue-twisting lyric, but it is always fun to hear her do it!
What are unexpected are her vocal ballads, “Blame it On My Youth” and “Detour Ahead.” Jennifer shows off some impressive phrasing and control, as well as catching the poignancy of the lyrics.
Really pushing the boundaries is “Ghost.” It was written by Emily Saliers of Indigo Girls fame. Jennifer fits comfortably into the country folk vocal style, which, I admit, took me completely by surprise! It also features Greene again on violin, with Chiodini on guitar, and subtle back-up vocals by Ginger Berglund and Jane Brucker.
Some words should be said about pianist Josh Nelson and drummer Randy Drake. They follow Jennifer effortlessly through her eclectic journey, accenting, enhancing, and dazzling along the way. Listen to what Randy is doing throughout “Dreamsville.” Very tricky! And Josh has impeccable technique, changing rhythms and tempos seemingly with ease, playing unexpected harmonies, and swinging all the way. I LOVE what he plays on “Something’s Coming.”
Jennifer’s passionate commitment to her music and her vivacity of spirit make her popular with her audiences and give her the freedom to explore her range of talents (composer, arranger, bassist, singer, lyricist) in a variety of styles. This remarkable CD is yet another chapter in Jennifer’s ongoing Left Coast Story!
When I first heard Jennifer play I was astonished. Could it be?
A bassist that understood how the instrument should be played,
rhythmically powerful and harmonically beautiful. A stunning virtuoso soloist!
Week after week I would go to her performances in Southern California to
experience this sound again and be sure it was real. I was drawn to
this talent. On one occasion another bassist I knew was in attendance and we spoke. He said “have you ever heard anything like that?”. My feeling exactly!
In time I got to know her and we became friends and had many conversations. She is an extraordinary person and musician and I hope to always be able to listen to her and be supportive of her creative endeavors.
Dave “BEDROCK” Bedrosian
This project is the result of a friend and fan coming forward and making it happen. Bedrock has been coming to hear us play for years and has always asked when we would be recording my “West Side Story” trilogy. He’s not the only one!!! All of these tunes have been requested by my fans. I’m overjoyed to be able to finally record them!
I’m gratified and overwhelmed at the response to my previous CD, “The Real Me” and I hope we’ve been able to improve our sensibilities even more on this CD.
My trio and I have been performing these tunes for a number of years, I’m grateful to Randy and Josh for their brilliant interpretations of my arrangements and their patience as we climb the ladder of public recognition.
The last tune, “Ghost”, written by Emily Saliers of the Indigo Girls, was my own request. It may not be of the Jazz vernacular but it is a tune with deep meaning for me. As with my “Newgrass” rendition of “The Studio City Stomp”, I hope our Jazz world fans will listen with open minds.
For the most part they’ve been keeping my mind open the last few years. Thanks to all who’ve been part of my “Left Coast Story”!
About Jennifer Leitham:
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