Harry Leahey

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Harry F. Leahey (1 September 1935 Plattsburgh, New York — 12 August 1990 New Brunswick, New Jersey) was an American virtuoso jazz guitarist and guitar teacher who lived, taught, and performed primarily in New Jersey.[1][2]

Biography[edit]

Guitar studies[edit]

Leahey received his first guitar at the age of thirteen. He went on to study with Lou Melia, at Sayer's Studio in Plainfield; Al Volpe, the renowned studio guitarist and teacher of such players as Joe Pass and Sal Salvador; leading jazz and studio guitarist Johnny Smith and Dennis Sandole, teacher of such students as Pat Martino and John Coltrane. He studied music theory and composition at Manhattan School of Music.

Career[edit]

Leahey's career began in the early 1960s and continued until his death in 1990. He played and recorded with Phil Woods at Carnegie Hall, Gerry Mulligan, Al Cohn, Jack Six, Warren Vaché, Mark Murphy and other well-known jazz artists. As part of the Newport Jazz Festival, the Maynard Ferguson Orchestra and the Phil Woods Quintet shared the bill at a midnight concert on June 28, 1977.

He was on the Grammy award winning Phil Woods Six - Live from the Showboat (1977) album. His composition "Rain Danse" and his arrangement of Django Reinhardt's "Manoir de mes Rêves (Django's Castle)" were featured on the album. From 1978 to 1990 he performed with his own trio, featuring Roy Cumming on bass and Glenn Davis on drums and in duo settings with various bass players. As leader, he recorded one album with his trio, one duo album with bassist Steve Gilmore and one solo album.

Tuition[edit]

A dedicated and practical family man, he chose to devote himself to teaching the guitar, teaching privately at his home in Plainfield, New Jersey, and from 1974 to 1988 at William Paterson University (then William Paterson College). Over the course of a thirty-year career as a guitar teacher, Leahey taught literally thousands of students, many of whom went on to successful careers. Among his former students are Vic Juris, Bob DeVos, Jon Herington, Warren Vaché, Jack Six, Walt Bibinger, Larry Barbee, Robert Florczak, John Wisniewski, and Chuck Loeb.

Death[edit]

Leahey died at the age of 54. Although he had received little critical acclaim, fellow musicians were unanimous in their praise for Harry Leahey. A few representative quotes: “Harry was a master.” – Glenn Davis. “The most complete guitarist I ever heard.” – Vinnie Corrao. “I was flabbergasted by his playing.” – Warren Vaché. “He was the top of the heap. He was the best guitar player that I had ever played with and I played with every [one].” – Phil Woods. “I don’t think there’ll ever be another Harry Leahey.” – Jack Six. “He was a great guitarist and a very beautiful man.” – Leo Johnson.

Selected discography[edit]

Don Sebesky, Freddie Hubbard, Randy Brecker, Alan Rubin, Joe Shepley (trumpet, flugel horn); Garnett Brown, Warren Covington, Wayne Andre (trombone, baritone horn); Paul Faulise, Alan Raph (bass trombone, baritone horn); Jimmy Buffington, Earl Chapin (french horn); Tony Price (tuba); Phil Bodner, Jerry Dodgion, Romeo Penque, George Marge (woodwinds); Hubert Laws (flute, soprano sax); Walt Levinsky (clarinet, tenor sax); Joe Farrell (soprano sax); Paul Desmond (alto sax – 1); Grover Washington, Jr. (alto sax, soprano sax); Bob James (piano, organ); Don Sebesky (piano, electric pianio, organ, accordion, clavinet, vocal, arranger, conductor); Milt Jackson (vibe); George Benson, Harry Leahey (guitar); Ron Carter(bass, electric bass, piccolo bass); Homer Mensch (bass); Billy Cobham, Jack DeJohnette (drums); Rubens Bassini (congas); Airto Moreira, David Friedman, Phil Kraus, Ralph MacDonald (percussion); Margaret Ross (harp); Jackie Cain, Roy Kral, Lani Groves, Carl Carwell, Tasha Thomas (vocal) + 16 strings
Recorded in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, April/May 1973
  1. Medley: Firebird; Birds of fire
  2. Song of the Seagull (1)
  3. Free as a Bird
  4. Psalm 150
  5. Vocalise (1)
  6. Fly
  7. Circles
  8. Semi-Tough
Michel Legrand, Phil Woods (alto sax), Gerry Mulligan (baritone sax), Jon Faddis (trumpet), Ron Carter (bass), Jimmy Madison, Grady Tate (drums), Erroll 'Crusher' Bennett, Portinho (percussion)
Recorded in New York, March 1978
Phil Woods, Mike Melillo (piano), Harry Leahey (guitar), Steve Gilmore, (bass), Bill Goodwin (drums), Alirio Lima (percussion)
Live: The Showboat Lounge, Silver Spring, Maryland, November 1976

References[edit]

  1. ^ Harry Leahey, Jazz Guitarist, 54, New York Times, August 16, 1990
  2. ^ Biography Index; A Cumulative Index to Biographical Material in Books and Magazines, Volume 17: September 1990 – August 1992, New York: H.W. Wilson Company (1992)