Jay Leonhart has had a dual career. He is an excellent bassist with an endless number of credits, and he is also a witty vocalist and lyricist who has been inspired by Dave Frishberg and Tom Lehrer. Born in late 1940 in Baltimore, Leonhart was part of a very musical family. By the time he was 7, he was already playing banjo, guitar, mandolin and bass. A few years later he and his older brother Bill appeared on Baltimore television, singing and playing banjo while using a repertoire that included both jazz and country music. When he was 14, Leonhart played bass with the Pier Five Dixieland Jazz Band. He studied music at Berklee during 1960-61 and with Oscar Peterson and Ray Brown at the Advanced School of Contemporary Music in Toronto during 1961-62.
Leonhart moved to New York in 1961, worked with the Buddy Morrow Orchestra and pianist Mike Longo, and then became extremely busy in the studios. Since then he has played with scores of major jazz musicians including Marian McPartland, Jim Hall, Mel Tormé, the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Orchestra, Phil Woods, Gerry Mulligan, Lee Konitz, Louie Bellson, Bill Charlap and Wycliffe Gordon. He has also worked with Tony Bennett. After getting married in 1968 and having two children (trumpeter Michael Leonhart and singer Carolyn Leonhart), he was inspired to start singing again and to write songs about his kids. Jay Leonhart, who has led 15 albums for such labels as DMP, Sunnyside, Nesak, DRG and Sons of Sound, has performed a one-man musical show titled The Bass Lesson, in addition to continuing his busy freelance activities.