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Departure by David Leonhardt

According to the press release that accompanied my CD copy, Philadelphia pianist David Leonhardt's release "Departure" is actually a 15 year re-release of an album conceived and recorded in 1989 and featuring some of that era's brightest young New York City jazz talent. As with any quality product, the age of this music doesn't show at all, and effectively showcases one of the most pleasingly melodic pianists that I have heard in a long time.

The majority of the tunes on this CD are Leonhardt's own compositions, with three well-known standards interspersed into the mix. The horn section is present on only about half of the tracks. When they wail, as in Leonhardt's driving "Manhattan Samba", you might think that you were hearing a lost session from Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers. Yet even without the horns, the fantastic trio of Leonhardt, bassists Ray Drummond and Lonnie Plaxico, and drummer Smitty Smith never creates a dull moment.

Other stand-out tracks include a richly-textured ballad treatment of "Out of Nowhere" by the trio, Leonhard's groovy, easy-going bop line that outlines "Funny Walk", named for John Cleese's famous Monty Python sketch (actually "The Ministry of Silly Walks") and featuring some fine blowing by Robin Eubanks, and an interesting bop-reharmonization of the 1920's Al Jolson hit "Me and My Shadow."

If you're looking for authentic New York City hard-bop featuring A-List players and satisfying tunes, "Departure" will be your ticket.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: David Leonhardt
  • CD Title: Departure
  • Genre: BeBop / Hard Bop
  • Year Released: 2004
  • Reissue Original Release: 1989
  • Record Label: Big Bang Records
  • Tracks: Lite Waltz, Manhattan Samba, Out of Nowhere, Having Time To Play, Off-Nite In Brooklyn, Do It!, Departure, Funny Walk, How Insensitive, Me And My Shadow
  • Musicians: Dave Leonhardt, piano; Eddie Henderson, trumpet; Robin Eubanks, trombone; Rich Perry, saxophones; Ray Drummond or Lonnie Plaxico, bass; Marvin "Smitty" Smith, drums
  • Rating: Four Stars
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