Jay Leonhart

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Jay Leonhart (born December 6, 1940, Baltimore, Maryland) is a double bassist, singer, and songwriter who has worked in jazz and popular music. He has performed with Judy Garland, Bucky Pizzarelli, Carly Simon, Frank Sinatra, and Sting. Leonhart is noted for his clever songwriting, often laced with dry humor. His compositions have been recorded by Blossom Dearie, Lee Konitz, and Gary Burton. His poetry is published both in, and outside of, the venue of song.


Leonhart grew up in a musical family. His parents and six siblings were all musically inclined. Everyone played the piano. By the age of seven, he and his older brother Bill were playing banjo, guitar, mandolin, and bass. They played country music and jazz. In their early teens, they were on TV in Baltimore and toured the country performing on banjo. When Leonhart was fourteen he started playing double bass in the Pier Five Dixieland Jazz Band in Baltimore.

After studying at the Peabody Institute (1946–1950), he attended the Berklee College of Music (1959–1961)[1] and the Advanced School of Contemporary Music in Toronto.

In the early 1960s, he worked with Mike Longo and Buddy Morrow.[1] At twenty one, he moved to New York City to start his career. He played road gigs with big bands, small bands, and singers. In 1968, he met and married a singer named Donna Zier and settled in New York.

Leonhart has worked with Louie Bellson, Urbie Green, Jim Hall, Lee Konitz, Marian McPartland, Gerry Mulligan, Mike Renzi, Don Sebesky, Chuck Wayne, and Phil Woods.[1], Thad Jones, Mel Lewis, Lou Marini, and Tony Bennett. He has worked as a studio musician in several genres, for musicians such as James Taylor, Ozzy Osbourne, and Queen Latifah. He has also played in a duo with trombonist Wycliffe Gordon.

Between 1975 and 1995 he was named Most Valuable Bassist in the recording industry three times by the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences.

Leonhart has recorded many solo albums and has performed a one-man show called "The Bass Lesson" about his life in the music business. He has toured worldwide for more than forty years.

His son and daughter, Michael and Carolyn, have worked often with Steely Dan.


As frontman[edit]

  • Salamander Pie with Mike Renzi (DMP, 1983)
  • There's Gonna Be Trouble with Joe Beck (Sunnyside, 1984)
  • The Double Cross (Sunnyside, 198 )
  • Life Out on the Road – A Jazz Journey (Prestige Elite, 1990)
  • Live at Fat Tuesday's: May 13–15, 1993 (DRG, 1993)
  • Two-Lane Highways (Megabop Global/Prestige Elite, 1996)
  • Great Duets (Chiaroscuro, 1999)
  • Sensitive to the Touch: The Music of Harold Arlen (Groove Jams, 1999)
  • Galaxies and Planets (Sons of Sound, 2001)
  • Rodgers & Leonhart (Sons of Sound, 2002)
  • A Visit with the Duke (Arbors, 2003)
  • If I Only Had a Brain (LRC, 2004)
  • Fly Me to the Moon (Tokuma, 2004)
  • Cool (Sons of Sound, 2004)

As sideman[edit]

With Kenny Barron

With Bluesiana Triangle

  • Bluesiana Triangle
  • Bluesiana Triangle II

With Barbara Carroll

  • Live at the Carlyle (DRG, 1991)
  • This Heart of Mine (DRG, 1994)
  • Everything I Love (DRG, 1995)
  • Live at Birdland (Harbinger, 2004)
  • I Wished on the Moon (Venus, 2007)
  • Something to Live For (Harbinger, 2010)
  • How Long Has This Been Going On? (Harbinger, 2011)

With Eddie Higgins and Terry Clarke

  • Speaking of Jobim (Sunnyside, 1998)

With Eddie Higgins Trio

  • Bewitched (Venus, 2001)
  • Don't Smoke in Bed (Venus, 2002)
  • If Dreams Come True (Tokuma, 2005)
  • Amor (Venus, 2006)

With Etta Jones

With Lee Konitz

With Peggy Lee

With Gerry Mulligan

With Donnie O'Brien

  • Donnie O'Brien Meets Manhattan Swing: In a Basie Mood (Arbors, 2004)

With Bucky Pizzarelli

With Daryl Sherman

  • Guess Who's in Town (Arbors, 2007)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Yanow, Scott. "Jay Leonhart". AllMusic. Retrieved 16 October 2017.

External links[edit]