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Jay Leonhart: The Bass Lesson, Tulips & Jazz

In video interviews from the Jazz Cruise 2012, noted bassist talks about his early musical development, his creation of “The Bass Lesson” and his new project about tulips, yes, tulips

Jay Leonhart
Jay Leonhart, during video interview on the Jazz Cruise 2012

During the 2012 Jazz Cruise, JazzTimes set up a make-shift video production studio in “The Boardroom,” a small room on the second deck of the MS Westerdam. Throughout the week, a succession of artists-including Kurt Elling, Freddy Cole, Ann Hampton-Callaway, Don Braden, Ken Peplowski, Wycliffe Gordon, Bill Charlap & Renee Rosnes and many others-came in to talk about the cruise, jazz education and their own projects. We have been posting these interviews at for the last few months. You can also see more of these video interviews at the JazzTimes YouTube channel.

Born in the Baltimore, Maryland area, bassist Jay Leonhart has been playing music since he was about the size of a cello. Over the years, he’s played with a veritable who’s who of jazz, including Thad Jones & Mel Lewis, Bucky Pizzarelli, Marian McPartland and Tony Bennett. He’s recorded over a dozen albums as a leader, but is probably best known for developing a one-man show “The Bass Lesson,” which- through songs and monologues- humorously depicts the life of a jazz musician, tethered to that famously bulky instrument.

Married to singer Donna Leonhart, the witty bassist is also the proud father of trumpeter Michael Leonhart and singer Carolyn Leonhart and is reveling in his new role as a doting grandfather.

In this In Person set of interview segments, Leonhart spoke about his early development as a bassist, his first jazz album, his first paid gig and music he’s been rediscovering lately. He also explains the genesis of “The Bass Lesson,” and talks about his new project-“Nuclear Tulips”-about the power of tulips in the Netherlands or something like that. A veteran of perhaps more jazz cruises than any other musician, Leonhart discusses how the cruise and its audience have evolved over the years. He also tells a few stories about some of the strangest or oddest things that have happened to him on a jazz cruise.

Jay Leonhart on his early musical development:

Jay Leonhart on the creation of “The Bass Lesson” and his new project – “Nuclear Tulips”:

Jay Leonhart on the evolution of the Jazz Cruise:

Interviews done by Irene Lee.

Originally Published