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Plays Gershwin by The David Leonhardt Jazz Group

Delaware Water Gap in the Poconos has been the home of a small gem of a neighborhood jazz festival since 1978. It helps that the area is a magnet for musicians and the neighbors include Phil Woods, Urbie Green and Bob Dorough! When I found out that David Leonhardt was from just downstream in Easton (and that the group had appeared at the festival last year) I knew we would be in for a treat. And we are.

In addition to his technical mastery of the instrument, jazz pianist and arranger David Leonhart is a creative soloist and an intuitive and sympathetic accompanist. This was well demonstrated, not only with his own groups, but during his ten years with David "Fathead" Newman, and his four as Jon Hendrick's musical director. His recent series of Gershwin tribute concerts led to the production of this studio CD.

I can't say enough about vocalist Nancy Reed's contribution to this album. Reed is a musician (plays bass in a vocal / instrumental duo with her guitarist husband, Spencer) and a singer. That is a lot different from being a musician who sings. She combines her instrumentalist's phrasing with a warm and supple voice and it's refreshing to hear scatting that is relaxed and not frantic. She and the group approach "Summertime" with a "livin' is easy" feeling and with beautiful backing by Lalama on tenor, just caresses "Embraceable You" and "The Man I Love."

Among the many instrumental highlights are a bluesy "Crush on You", an impressionistic yet rhythmic "But Not For Me", Leonhardt's swinging and lmaginative treatment of "S'Wonderful" and an "I Got Rhythm" that keeps shifting between Gershwin and Bird. The jazz world owes Gershwin a lot, not just for those ubiquitous "I Got Rhythm" changes but for the unique harmonic structure of all his songs-a springboard to improvisation. This intimate tribute by the Leonhardt group represents a considerable down payment.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: The David Leonhardt Jazz Group
  • CD Title: Plays Gershwin
  • Genre: Straight-Ahead / Classic
  • Year Released: 2001
  • Record Label: Big Bang Records
  • Musicians: David Leonhardt (piano), Nancy Reed (vocals), Ralph Lalama (sax), Paul Rostock (bass), Tom Melito (drums)
  • Rating: Five Stars
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