Leonhart was born in Baltimore Maryland on December 6, 1940, where
up and studied classical piano at the Peabody School of Music and
learned just how much he really loved jazz. Actually he couldn't
still long enough to learn classical piano, but could sit at the
piano for hours playing boogie woogie. His teacher, Catherine
clearly see that her young student was headed in distinctly non-classical
directions. So she encouraged him to go ahead and play what he
He gave up piano and soon picked up banjo and guitar with his older
brother Bill. The two quickly evolved into a formidable duo and
together around the country in the late 40's and early 50's and
made guest appearances on the Today show in 1952. Jay first started
in this duo with his brother. They were Baltimore's answer to Homer
and Jethro. Humorous songwriting and singing became ingrained
at this point. But when Jay actually experienced hearing a bass
violin up close, and when he heard Ray Brown with the Oscar Peterson
in 1955, there was simply no turning back.
studying at The Berklee School of Music in Boston for a short time,
Jay went on the road with Buddy Morrow's band in 1960. After what
seemed like a very long time (one summer of endless driving) Jay got
off Buddy's band and decided to pursue a little more education and
soon found out that Ray Brown would be teaching in Toronto at a school
rather expansively named The Advanced School of Contemporary Music.
So in September of 1961, Jay drove to Toronto, and deep into the cold
Canadian winter. Baltimore suddenly seemed like the deep south.
in spite of the cold, Jay and Ray became lifelong friends. However
they never performed on the same bill until April 8, 1999, thirty
eight years later, when they appeared together in a concert named "Jay Meets Ray" in
New York City.
has since played with most of the great jazz artists in history and
has recorded with many of the pop heroes of the last 40 years. From
Judy Garland to Madonna, Vaughn Monroe to Sting, Stevie Wonder to
James Taylor, Liza Minelli to Carly Simon.
has spent most of his time in New York since 1967, particularly while
his children were growing up. He has twice been named the Most Valuable
Bassist by The National Association of Recording Arts and Sciences.
His kids, Michael, 25, and Carolyn, 27, are now both successful free
lance musicians, who are currently performing with Steely Dan. In
the 90's Jay has been touring Europe twice a year with Bucky Pizzarelli
and John Bunch in the group known as New York Swing.
1977, Jay started writing poems and turning them into songs. He has
recorded 6 CD's of his own songs and has many more in the works. His
songs have been well received by critics who possess a sense of humor.
is currently performing in the Off Broadway hit "Secrets Every Smart
Traveler Should Know" for which he wrote 3 songs, and will soon be
opening his own show "It Is Impossible to Sing and Play the Bass",
which will open in September in New York.