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Jay Leonhart: Galaxies and Planets

If you could somehow stuff Dave Frishberg, Mose Allison, Jon Hendricks and Eddie Jefferson into a blender, out would pour Jay Leonhart. He contains many of their best ingredients, yet like each of them he remains a jazz original. The wit, the down-home ease, the slickness, the vocalese are all there-plus Leonhart provides his own bass line. He not only talks the talk, he walks the walk. He also has the jazz credentials, from the Peabody School and Berklee to studying with Ray Brown and playing with Phil Woods, Lee Konitz, Jim Hall and Gerry Mulligan.

This collection of 15 originals covers the whole human spectrum, from the introspection of “Endless Nights” to the quotidian quandary of “Double Parking.” But by far, his songs are just plain funny and sardonic, with jagged intervals, witty rhymes and situations musicians can relate to. From “She’s Mean”: “Just like a bug on the windshield of love, your heart’s gonna go splat”; from “The Judge”: “Before the birth of Branford and Wynton, I was friends with Milton Hinton”; and from “The German Shepherd”: “The simple fact is that a German Shepherd peed upon my bass, so this must be my lucky day.”

For the doggie dirge, he sings to his own accompaniment; the rest of the tunes are almost as minimalist: mostly piano, occasionally guitar and some licks from his son Michael on trumpet. The poignant tribute to the “Judge” goes beyond that track: the CD is dedicated to the memory of Hinton.

Originally Published