Marking the Richard Rodgers Centennial, Leonhart pays tribute with thirteen popular songs, each performed in a jazz style with a variety of guest vocalists and instrumentalists.
01 Oh, What A Beautiful Mornin' (4:09)
02 I Didn't Know What Time It Was (4:21)
03 This Can't Be Love (3:06)
04 It Might As Well Be Spring (6:11)
05 This Nearly Was Mine (6:21)
06 The Surrey With The Fringe On Top (3:55)
07 The Sound Of Music (6:05)
08 My Romance (3:59)
09 Where Or When (4:56)
10 Little Girl Blue (5:55)
11 You Took Advantage Of Me (4:08)
12 Blue Moon (4:12)
13 Edelweiss (3:18)
Jay LEONHART, bass & vocals
Bob SNEIDER, guitar
Dave MANCINI, drums
Andy PARSONS, saxophones
AMERICAN SAXOPHONE QUARTET, (trk 07)
Jodi STEVENS, vocal (trk 08)
Albert REGNI, soprano saxophone
Carolyn LEONHART, vocal (trk 05)
Donna LEONHART, vocal (trk 10)
Ted ROSENTHAL, piano
Jim PUGH, trombone
Michael LEONHART, trumpet
It was 1964. I was twenty-three and “The Sound of Music” was first showing in movie theaters. I was watching it for the sixth time. The movie was scenic, beautiful and fun. But it was the music that simply transported me. Julie Andrew’s singing was pure and beautiful and good. Everybody’s singing was just fine. But at that age I was already a die-hard jazz musician who never knew what the lyrics were saying. I just loved the harmonies and the melodies, in that order. I say this with no particular pride. I am just stating the facts, ma’am.
The music spoke to me in a way that the lyrics couldn’t. At that point in my life the words were too realistic and intrusive. And I know many jazz musicians who were the same way. Not by choice either. It just was that way with us.
But as we got older and lived and learned, the words began to invade our souls and blossom and take on meaning. We began having revelations about why the adults had been so crazy about Rodgers and Hart and Rodgers and Hammerstein when we were kids. Still, the music was always by Richard Rodgers. His was the name that was always there.
Recently I compiled a long list of my favorite songs so I would never be at a loss for something to play with my trio. It was then that I realized just how just many of my genuinely favorite songs were written by Richard Rodgers -- how high the Rodgers percentage was. I had actually become very familiar with his songs over the decades, having played them with many popular singers over the past forty years. And when I was in my late single digits and early teens I played banjo and guitar in shows and dance bands around Baltimore and Richard Rodgers songs and melodies and harmonies were everywhere. The songs had just been written and were the hits of the day.
But it took me a long time to comprehend that these songs were actually composed by somebody, this Rodgers guy, and were not just a sweet gift that trickled out of a mountain spring somewhere. They seemed to be part of our birthright. And now here I am in 2002, putting out a recording of Richard Rodgers music and singing the lyrics besides. Oh my. There may be hope for all of us.
On this CD I am joined by three ladies who beautifully negotiate three Richard Rodgers songs that I would not have included on the recording otherwise. Their efforts contribute so much to this collection. I love their tracks. Thank you Donna, Carolyn and Jodi.
Many of these Richard Rodgers songs have become deep jazz standards. Other of his songs, like Edelweiss, The Sound of Music, and This Nearly Was Mine, are rarely recorded in jazz. But they got some special consideration and treatment and have been included here. “The Sound of Music” is never found on a jazz album, but I kept thinking about Julie Andrews skipping through the Alps singing “The hills are alive....” while a saxophone section was providing the kind of hot and interesting jazz background that I am very partial to. My son, Michael, understood exactly what I had in mind and carefully arranged the horns and sent them soaring over the peaks and through the valleys. The American Saxophone Quartet did the inspired flying and playing.
Special note must be made of the wonderful and burning guitar playing of Bob Sneider, who truly lifts this CD up into the fluffy white clouds floating above Julie Andrews, and to drummer Dave Mancini, who gently but masterfully propels us toward the border. And special thanks to the brilliant Ted Rosenthal on piano, who arranged at least half of the songs on the CD, and added his adventurous playing to the tracks.
Ted Rosenthal is an acknowledged master of Thelonious Monk’s music and playing style, and when I asked him if he would arrange “You Took Advantage of Me” as if it were a Thelonious Monk song, he agreed. He jumped right in. I suspect that Richard Rodgers will be calling me any moment to discuss this concept. But he’ll just have to be open-minded about it. I just wanted to have a little fun with his great old standard.
At first I was concerned that the title: Rodgers & Leonhart, might incur the wrath of classic Rodgers and Hart fans and cause them to look askance at my presumptuousness. And Jeff Penney, who is the brains behind the Sons of Sound label and who thought up the title, left it up to me.
So considering that the whole Leonhart family* does appear here, and with a deep bow of appreciation to the extraordinary Oscar Hammerstein and the brilliant Larry Hart, and with great respect for Julie Andrews: Here’s Rodgers and Leonhart.
A special note of thanks to the producer Dave Wilkes, who called me on behalf of The Rodgers and Hammerstein Organization and gave us the idea for this project and encouraged its completion.
*The “Leonhart family” might easily include several musicians here who were not actually named Leonhart at birth.
"Jay Leonhart's latest, a leisurely stroll through Mister Rodgers' classy neighborhood, is as cozy and comfortable as a Fred MacMurray cardigan. Ah, but don't let the relaxed atmosphere fool you. Leonhart is the Fred Astaire of jazz — a craftsman so seamlessly smooth that casual observers often fail to grasp the immensity of his talent. As a bass player, Leonhart's in the same exalted league as his mentor, teacher and musical hero, Ray Brown. As a vocalist, he remains, much like Astaire, significantly underappreciated. They share the same reedy ability to compensate for a limited range with masterful phrasing and impeccable timing."
— JazzTimes, May 2003
three stars"…[Leonhart's] enthusiasm and phrasing, along with some inventive arrangements, make this a worthwhile effort."
— All Music Guide, February 2003
"…Bassist/vocalist Leonhart provides this recording with a beautifully fresh sense of humor and novel invention… ["The Sound of Music"] and "Edelweiss" represent worthy additions to the American Canon. These performances on the whole have a generous personality and a wiseacre sense… as wholesome as the girl next door — as fresh, too."
— All About Jazz, February 2003