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"The tunes that Leonhardt's trio played prior to Newman taking the stage got the crowd up and moving."

George Kanzler,
The Star Ledger

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Jazz For Dancers
William Livingstone
Jul 21, 2001

While writing about jazz, I discovered a recording by the pianist, arranger, and conductor David Leonhardt that gave me great pleasure. Called The David Leonhardt Jazz Group Plays Gershwin (Big Bang Records 9569), it appealed to me in a way that few other jazz recordings do. Featuring Nancy Reed on vocals and excellent side men, it is a recital of familiar Gershwin tunes like The Man I Love, How Long Has This Been Going On, I Got Rhythm, and so forth. The track I kept going back to was But Not for Me. I can’t explain why it enchanted me so.

I wrote that I’d like to hear more of Leonhardt’s work, and since then I have acquired three of his other CD’s all from Big Bang Records. A Time for Love is a collection of vocal and piano duets with Nancy Reed and Leonhardt. It’s a well-planned program of familiar tunes (Someone to Watch Over Me, Too Marvelous, The Very Thought of You, etc.) and unfamiliar songs. I like Nancy Reed’s style. She reminds me of a jazz singer I know named Devora.

I don’t pretend to be an expert on jazz, and so I am not sure whether the work of Leonhardt and his colleagues can accurately be called “cool” jazz, but I know that it does not have the loud aggressive tone of hard bop. Jazz for Dancers by the David Leonhardt Trio is a collection of hit standards – Blues in the Night, Over the Rainbow, Strike Up the Band, and so forth – played in a way that emphasizes their rhythmic diversity as well as their melodies.

Reflections by the David Leonhardt Trio is a similar instrumental collection with fewer well-known selections. This recital, however, has the same enchanting quality that made me keep playing But Not for Me on the Gershwin CD. The power of music to transport a listener to another place, time, and emotional state has always intrigued me. The charming, sensuous style of Leonhardt’s Reflections transports me to that place Baudelaire wrote about in his poem L’invitation au voyage, a place where “nothing exists but order and beauty/Luxury, peace, and pleasure.” Do you wonder why I keep playing that disc?

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