MP3 David Leonhardt - Jazz for Yoga Peace, Vol. 1
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8 MP3 Songs in this album (59:48) !
Related styles: SPIRITUAL: Mantras, JAZZ: Modern Creative Jazz
People who are interested in Keith Jarrett Bill Evans Bill Charlap should consider this download.
David Leonhardt Jazz Pianist/ Composer/ Educator
David Leonhardt bio -Career Highlights
Twenty year with saxophonist David âFatheadâ Newman: arranging and playing on five CDs, international tours. 1988-2009
Four year as musical director for jazz vocalist Jon Hendricks: international tours, jazz festivals, radio and TV broadcasts. 1983-1987
President and founder of Big Bang Records with twenty two CDs as a leader. 1993 to present.
Fifteen years leading The David Leonhardt Jazz Group a concert ensemble with hundreds of performances: theaters, Universities, Colleges, festivals, arts organizations US, Canada and Europe. 1993-2008
Twelve years freelance experience in New York City. Broadway to the Today Show, jazz clubs to dance halls, Bar Mitzvahs and weddings to cabaret clubs and Lincoln Center, jingles to jazz records. 1980-1992
Twenty years performing with legendary Tap Dancers. Musical director for Manhattan Tap and The Shelley Oliver Tap Dancers including National and European tours, television and DVDs. 1987 to 2008
Decades of experiences as a jazz educator in universities, colleges, clinics and workshops. Ten years of presenting âJazz For Kidsâ an interactive children's program.
First jazz experience playing piano as a teenager with jazz educator Jamey Aebersold in concerts, clubs and school presentations in Louisville, KY. 1974-1980
First professional engagement at the age of 14 in a teenage rock band. First road experience with a southern rock band touring Dixie age 16. 1970-1976
The Early Years
David Leonhardt started piano lessons as an eight year old in a small town in Kentucky from the neighborhood teacher. At fourteen his interest in music led him to forming a local rock and roll garage band and the start of his professional career. Quickly becoming a popular local band they played gigs from rollerinks to high school dances to southern road house saloons. As a teenager his interest in jazz led him to the University of Louisville where he studied theory, piano, and string bass. At sixteen a mentorship with noted jazz educator Jamey Aebersold started him on the road to a jazz life. With Mr. Aebersold he gave concerts, educational presentations to children, and studied at the feet of a master teacher. At seventeen David Leonhardt left home and began performing steadily in Louisville, Kentucky. He played organ in a country western band, piano in a southern rock band, and string bass in a jazz trio. He played electric keyboard in a modern jazz quintet and toured the south. At twenty Mr. Leonhardt became the house pianist at local jazz club in Louisville where he sharpened his skills backing such diverse jazz talents as Buddy Defranco, Dave Liebman, and Buddy Tate.
The New York Years
After moving to New York City in his twenties Mr. Leonhardt played for two years in the heart of Greenwich Village at The Surf Maid where the thriving music scene of the Eighties influenced him and established his reputation as a jazz pianist on the rise. When he toured for four years as musical director for jazz legend Jon Hendricks he became recognized as as an international performing artist. This opportunity to play at the top festivals concert stages and night clubs in the world with the best jazz musicians seasoned Mr. Leonhardt and led to the start of his own recording career. Ten years as a member of the "Fathead" Newman Quintet furthered his reputation and made his name familiar on the New York jazz scene. During this period he freelanced as well and accompanied singers, played TV shows, did radio broadcasts, recorded jingles and jazz records, and began his career as a record producer. He became a regular performer at the jazz clubs including The Village Vanguard, The Blue Note, Sweet Basil, Birdland, and The Village Gate.
Mr. Leonhardt became a favored vocal accompanist in New York and backed up such luminaries as Diane Reeves, Annie Ross , Bobby McFarren, Michele Hendricks, and the vocalists from Manhattan Transfer. During this time he became musical director for the tap dance group Manhattan Tap a seminal dance troupe that helped spark the resurgence of interest in tap dancing. He performed with the foremost names in tap and became a favorite with the old time legends of tap dancing. He has wrote arrangements for The Art Blakey Big Band and was guest conductor and arranger for The Benny Carter Orchestra for a Japanese tour.
An Artist On His Own
In 1993 after moving to Pennsylvania David Leonhardt founded Big Bang Records and released his first CD "Departure" to great critical acclaim as well as his popular CD "Reflections". He formed The David Leonhardt Jazz Group and began touring and giving concerts world wide. He has since produced numerous recordings and also recorded a series of Tap Music for Tap Dancers CDs. The David Leonhardt Jazz Group has made successful appearances at the International Arts Festival of Shenzen in China, the Winnipeg Jazz Festival, The French Maison de Dance in Lyon, as well festivals and concerts throughout the United States. His all star group has been heard at Lincoln Center, The Apollo Theater, The Blue Note, Birdland, and Sweet Basil.
Mr. Leonhardt is on the roster of The Pennsylvania Arts On Tour.
Mr. Leonhardt has produced, arranged, and performed on numerous recordings with jazz stars Stan Getz, Herbie Mann, Ron Carter, Slide Hampton, Jon Hendricks, Gary Bartz, Tom Harrel, Robin Eubanks, Ray Drummond, and Lewis Nash.
Mr. Leonhardt is a prolific composer with twenty years of public performances of his work. He has written for small groups, big bands, electric ensembles, dance groups, vocal groups, percussion ensembles and film.
Mr. Leonhardtâs compositions have been performed by and are in the repertoire of:
The Shelley Oliver Tap Dancers, The Muhlenberg Dancers, Manhattan Tap, Michele Hendricks, The Pocono Jazz Quintet, The David Leonhardt Jazz Group, The David "Fathead" Newman Quintet, Stanley Turentine, Hank Crawford, the vocal trio String of Pearls, and The Jazz Soul Trio.
He has received the ASCAP Special Award six years running, numerous Meet the Composer Grants. and was commissioned By The Muhlenberg Dancers for a Jazz Ballet. The David Leonhardt composition "Slippin' Down" was recorded by David "Fathead" Newman with Stanley Turentine and Hank Crawford on the CD "Fire". David Leonhardt composed the soundtrack for the award winning film "Ain't No King Comin'", which won the 1987 NYU best film award and the 1987 Mobil best film award.
Mr. Leonhardt has been a jazz educator for over twenty five years from presenting workshops with Jamey Aebersold as a teenager to leading clinics with his own ensemble. He has coached vocalists at the New School in New York City, critiqued college big bands across the country, taught private students from six year olds to seasoned professionals as well as giving lectures from grade school through college level .
1989-2002 Various clinics, master classes and workshops for public schools, colleges and community groups including: Lincoln Center, The Universal Jazz Coalition NYC, Jazz Centro Italy, Osaka Friends of Jazz Japan, Juniata College, Wesleyan College, College Misercordia, Cumberland Valley School of Music, and Upper Darby Performing Arts Center.
1992-1999 Jazz piano teacher, Lafayette College
1981-2000 Private lessons for all ages for professional and amateur students
1994-2000 Rhythm workshops for dancers, Muhlenberg College
1989-1998 Author of series on jazz piano styles in Piano Today Magazine
1997-1998 Artist in Residence, Lafayette College
1995-1996 Artist in Residence, Lafayette College
1993-1996 Jazz piano teacher, Lehigh University
David Leonhardt Has performed with:
Jon Hendricks, Stan Getz, Slide Hampton, Phil Woods, Tom Harrel, Ron Carter, Eddie Henderson, Robin Eubanks, Ray Drummond, Lewis Nash, Stanley Turentine, David "Fathead" Newman, Hank Crawford, Art Blakey, Woody Shaw, Buddy Defranco, Dave Liebman, Buddy Tate, Claudio Roditi, Benny Carter, Gary Bartz, Peter Washington, Kenny Washington, Jimmy Cobb, Diane Reeves, Annie Ross , Bobby McFarren, Michele Hendricks, Redd Foxx, Bobby Durham, Wynton Marsalis, George Benson, Cookie Cook, Sandman Sims, Buster Brown, Steve Condos, Savion Glover, Honi Coles, Major Holly, Herbie Mann, Frank Wes, Mickey Roker, Steve Turre, Billy Higgins, Marvin âSmittyâ Smith, Lonnie Plaxico, Leroy Williams, Jimmy Raney, Jamey Aebersold, Steve Gilmore, Lou Donaldson, Johnny Hartman, Jimmy Slide, Wynard Harper, Ben Riley, Jimmy Woode, Ira Coleman, Jamil Nasser, Harvey Swartz, Terry Clark, Keith Copeland, Billy Hart, Yoron Israel, Adam Nussbaum, Akita Tana, Rufus Reed, Philip Harper, Ron McClure,
Facts of Interest
David Leonhardtâs first overseas tour was to Israel during the war in Lebanon where he was in a crowded Arab market that had a terrorist bomb attack. No one was injured.
He was on tour for six weeks in China in 1989 during the Tienemen Square uprising where his concert in Beijing was canceled by the authorities as being to democratic. He and his trio left as the soldiers moved in.
As a sixteen year old he played for a year in a country western bar where he had to lie about his age to perform. He was know as âThe Kidâ
His first modern jazz trio at eighteen was called âThe Pony Tail Trioâ They opened for Herbie Hancock.
His first steady job in New York was in a Bebop duo that switched sets with a sing along pianist. The pianistâs job was to bring in the tourists. The duos job was to run them out.
When he auditioned for Jon Hendricks he was the only jazz pianist there who wore a three piece suit. He got the gig.
His series of Tap Music For Tap Dancers CDs has become an indispensable rehearsal tool for tap enthusiasts on four continents.
David Leonhardt started working as a professional musician at fourteen and has never held any other kind of job.
He was once paid six hundred dollars for playing two minutes live coast to coast on The Today Show with a trumpet impersonator.
During the eighties his apartment in Brooklyn was known for the quality and frequency of the jam sessions that went on there. His neighbors never complained once in twelve years.
When he moved to Brooklyn he went with a wave of twelve young jazz musicians from Kentucky. It became know as âThe Louisville Ghettoâ.
WHAT THE CRITICS SAY
"David Leonhardt, an intense and swinging artist alert to every mood."
Leonard Feather, Los Angeles Times
"The David Leonhardt Trio provided first rate jazz."
Burt Supree, Village Voice
"The superb David Leonhardt Trio...."
Bob Harrington, New York Post
"Mr. Leonhardt on piano is also musical director. The troupe is fortunate to have him."
Jack Anderson, New York Times
"...David Leonhardt, who played with ease, respect, and good cheer."
Phillip Elwood, San Francisco Chronicle
"Leonhardt explored the piece in a solo that showed his understanding of space as well as notes."
Stuart Troup, New York Newsday
"...a stellar rhythm section , featuring David Leonhardt on piano."
"Backed by the superb David Leonhardt Trio, with expert and sensitive piano work by Leonhardt."
"... a fiery solo by pianist David Leonhardt."
Royal Stokes, Washington Post
"Leonhardt is doing just fine in the jazz world."
Gene Williams, Louisville Courier Journal
"David Leonhardt is a very swinging articulate pianist"
Porland Jazz Notes
"Mr. Leonhardt's Group gives refreshing insight to the music of Georger Gershwin"
"Leonhardt's Jazz Group is Magnificent"
David Leonhardt Interview
Taken and Transcribed by Ludwig Van Trikt
CADENCE: What was your early beginning like?
DAVID LEONHARDT: My first professional job was at the age of 14 in Louisville, KY. I was playing organ in a teen rock and roll band and that job was for a basement make-out party for teenagers when the parents were out of town. I knew from that moment I wanted to be a professional musician. What could be better than being the center of attention to all my peers? Having the girls think I was cool didnât hurt either. Also, I sensed from the start that when the music is playing and the best is happening, the moment has been lifted out of the ordinary. Even then that feeling of being part of something larger than myself was powerful and profound. That band went on to be popular in central Kentucky and we did a lot of high school dances or roller rink dances where the kids would roller skate for two hours then dance for two hours. We were so young that we could not even drive so our moms would load us into their station wagons with all our amps and PA equipment; they would take us all over Kentucky. We played every weekend for a few years. In those days we called it âplayingâ. Later when I started playing with older musicians for more money, we called it âworkingâ. Somehow, that change in wording made us feel more grown up.
My first girlfriend was a teenage groupie who would follow us around from gig to gig and my next girlfriend was the singer in the band. That pretty much set the pattern for the next twenty years of my life as far as relationships went. That band won a big local battle of the bands and we were awarded a big expensive PA system that was our downfall. Once we had assets we started to argue over them and eventually broke up.
After that I joined a southern rock band that copied Allman Brothers songs. I was 16 and the other guys were in their 20âs and we were playing Blues bars and nightclubs, playing till the wee hours of the morning. They nicknamed me âThe Kidâ and I had to lie about my age to play in the clubs. I was the only one in the band that could read music. I would say that sex, drugs, and Rock and Roll was their mantra so it gave me a real education. Back then my audience was bikers and drinkers and people looking to hook up and get high. A real discerning crowd. I loved every minute of it and moved out of my parents house when I was 17. By then I was playing a Wurlitzer electric piano and a Hammond organ.
After a year of that I joined a roadhouse country and western band that played six nights a week for a couple years at a country dance hall. The bar owner was the worst. He hated the musicians and made our life hell. But that was where I learned to belly up to the bar and order a drink. We were playing for middle age country dancers who would crowd the dance floor all night long. The music was loud and fun. By this time I had a four keyboard setup adding a clavinet and a fender Rhodes. We lost that gig and went to a real country dive where we played for alcoholics, losers and prostitutes. The smoke was so thick that my eyes would water all night and I finally quit the gig over that.
CAD: You must be very familiar with the chitlin circuit, having played for ten years with David âFatheadâ Newman?
D.L.: When I first started playing Jazz I was 17 years old and knew nothing but had heard two Miles Davis records. One was A Tribute to Jack Johnson, which is a fusion record of rock vamps that knocked me out, and a compilation that included âSeven Steps To Heavenâ and âFourâ. I dug that as well but had no frame of reference to understand about the different styles in Jazz. Luckily for me Jamey Aebersold lived near me and I started hanging out with him at his house and he would show me things on the piano. Jamey is the number one Jazz education/clinic thing so it was great for me to be around that. There were no pianists in town then who would jam with him so he taught me so he could practice with a live band. It wasnât lessons though, it was more like âlearn these chords so next time you come over we can jam or Blue Bossaâ. It was really a lot of pressure because everyone else in his basement at these jam sessions knew what was what and I was still coming out of the rock and roll sensibility. They murdered me! I did everything wrong that was possible and the other musicians couldnât stand it. Jamey must have sensed my desire to play Jazz and hung in there and soon I could at least stay out of their way. I eventually started doing gigs with him at schools and concerts. During this period I moved out of my parents house, lived with a series of older women and started practicing seriously hours and hours every day. I was young and wanted to play music more than anything. It was an overpowering urge. Between Jazz and women I had no time for school or anything else. I was young and donât regret a minute of it.
At the same time in Louisville there was a real divide between the White musicians and the Black ones. I lived in the east end, a mostly White area, and the west end was mostly Black. Right away I figured there was a lot more fun to be had in the west end. I used to go to a club in the west end that had a Jazz/funk band and sit in. They would let me because they knew I played with Jamey and respected him. This was a real chitlin circuit club. It was another world for a skinny White kid with long hair. Little did I know that I would spend years of my life in clubs just like that one, with soul food and flashy dressing pimps and the only White face anywhere around being me. Most of that is gone now except for a few places like Trenton. I was doing gigs with soul bands as well and these guys would hip me to what was going on in the Jazz world. This was where I got used to being the only White guy in a band-a pattern that would last for decades.
When I was nineteen I played acoustic bass in a Jazz trio at a club for a year. This was a sophisticated, expensive New York-type supper club and was great for me to learn a lot of Jazz songs. At that point I had to decide what my main instrument would be. I chose piano and worked six nights a week for three years at two different gigs leading my own trio. This was where I really learned how to be a Jazz guy. At one of the clubs we were the house trio and we would back headliners from out of town. I got to play with guys like Buddy Tate, Dave Liebman, Buddy DeFranco and a host of others. Sometimes I would split sets with people like Helen Humes and Barney Kessel. We were the happening place in town for a year and I thought I was something. Next stop Hollywood! This was where I learned the reality of the club scene when it turned out the manager stole all the profits, committed insurance fraud, and left town in the middle of the night. The club closed and I was such a jazzer that I couldnât find another gig. That is also when I learned that Jazz is not popular in a commercial sense. All the clubs were playing disco. After six months of not working I moved to Brooklyn.
CAD: I would imagine that two of the highlights of your career would be the work that you did for the Art Blakey Big Band and The Benny Carter Orchestra. How did you land those gigs?
D.L.: Those were nice opportunities. I co-led (c. late â80s, early '90s) a band with Michele Hendricks, the Jazz vocalist (Jon Hendricksâ daughter). The bassist was Ray Drummond and the drummer was Marvin âSmittyâ Smith who is now the drummer on âThe Tonight Showâ. We played all over New York and did a series of CDs together for the Muse label in the 80s. Those three CDs really helped a lot in my development as an arranger and record producer. The bands were top-notch and we really put our hearts into them. We toured for about three years in Europe, Japan, and the U.S. so we got various chances to do different concerts with some great players.
We toured Japan with Benny Carter and his Orchestra. Lots of fun and a really top-notch band from LA. Benny was great and let me lead the band when we did our part of the concert. He was the kind of guy that wasnât afraid to share the limelight. Very supportive. He used to say the reason he was well known was because he survived longer than any of his contemporaries. I am sure it was more than that but that gives you an idea of what a gentleman he was. Not an egotist like so many young Jazz so-called stars.
The Art Blakey gig was similar although on that one I wrote arrangements and did not play. Michele Hendricks and I were on tour in Japan and she was asked to sing at the Mt. Fuji Jazz Festival with Art. So I wrote a few arrangements and got to rehearse the band. Art was a trip! When it was time to go on, a sweet little Japanese girl said, âMr. Blakey, this way to the stage,â and Art growled at her, âHoney, I been finding the stage for fifty years!â
CAD: Has the revival of the electric piano in Jazz over the past few years affected your own playing? What do you attribute it to?
D.L.: My first gigs were on organ and electric piano so I am very familiar with the different ways to play electric versus acoustic. In fact, I didnât play an acoustic piano on gigs very much until I started playing Jazz, and then not very much. In the â70s almost all the gigs were keyboard gigs unless you were doing a cocktail piano solo gig. Even the Jazz clubs were going to keyboards. My first keyboard was a Farfisa organ, a Fender Rhodes. Then in the â80s synths came in and I got a DX7 and then a Korg. They all basically sucked, to be honest. But they were loud so I could play as loud as the guitarists. When I moved to New York most were out of tune but at least I didnât have to carry around a back-breaking box. I used my electric for a few years in New York until it was stolen out of the back of my car in the middle of the day on Broadway and Houston Street. For years I didnât have a keyboard but now I have a few. They really are much better now. I can actually do a Jazz concert on my keyboard without hating it. The way things are now, a good keyboard sounds close to a bad piano. Many concert venues, especially outdoors ones...the way they mike the piano and use monitors to hear everything, a keyboard is not that different than an acoustic grand. I also use a keyboard when I do organ gigs as opposed to Hammond B3 just because I donât want to carry a big organ around.
CAD: Describe your âJazz for Kidsâ program.
D.L.: When I learned to play from Jamey Aebersold, as soon as I could play well enough he had me go on gigs with him at schools and demonstrate Jazz to kids. So it is something I have been doing for over thirty years. The first thing he said to me was to smile when you play for kids so they can see how much fun it is to play music. That aloof jazz guy thing doesnât work with kids.
My Jazz for Kids program is a fun way to get young children to hear and enjoy Jazz. We play songs they know and take them apart and blow on them. Some nursery rhymes, some Disney songs, and some TV themes. We demonstrate the instruments and get the kids singing and clapping. We make it seem cool to play Jazz and show them how much fun it is. We present it in schools for students or in theaters as a family show. The parents always like it as well, so it makes for a great experience for a family. Very seldom can a whole family find music they all like, so this serves a purpose to bring them together.
Some songs we will have the kids sing while we improvise on top of them so that they become part of the band and the experience of being in the moment of creation. I always scat for them and they like that, and we will do call and answer with rhythms and little Jazz phrases. We stress the creative side of Jazz and let them feel that they could improvise with just a little practice. It really excites them and we get letters and drawings from children all the time, saying how they want to be Jazz players. We have done the show hundreds of times for thousands of kids and I am sure that there are a lot of budding Jazz musicians out there because they saw how great it is to play and improvise Jazz. We feel so strongly about this stuff that we did a CD, Jazz For Kids that is one of our best sellers. I always make an effort when we tour to do some kids show in the area to build an audience for the future.
CAD: What was New York City like when you first arrived there?
D.L.: When I first got to New York I moved in with a bunch of young musicians from Louisville. About a dozen of us moved to New York at around the same time. So many of us moved to Brooklyn that they used to call it the Louisville ghetto. We pretty much killed the Jazz scene in Kentucky by all leaving at the same time but we all had eyes to make it in the Big Apple. The first day in New York I got three parking tickets and got mugged the second week so I learned fast that itâs not all fun and games. I spent all my money in six months going to Jazz clubs every night to see all the guys live that I had only heard on record.
I didnât have a piano then and was lucky to get a six-night-a-week gig playing a Jazz duo in the village at the Surf Maid, a club that Joanne Brackeen had played at for years. We played two hours, from 7:00 to 9:00, and got dinner and $5.00. Afterward I would hang at Jazz clubs. On the weekends we would play until 3:00 in the morning, splitting the set with a sing-along pianist. He would bring in the crowds and they would sit around the piano and sing âThose Were The Days My Friendsâ and junk like that and then we would get up and play Bebop and run them out. That way they would turn over the house and make more money. He would bring a new crowd back in and we would run them out...I was happy to have a piano to play on and a chance to practice. The bass player was a guy that had played with Charlie Parker and had his picture in the book Bird Lives. He was bald, had no front teeth, wore a Muslim skull cap, carried a copy of the Koran and Bird Lives with him. He had spent time in jail for heroin and at that time lived in a flophouse on the Bowery. It cost three dollars a night and he would save his two dollars left over and every three days buy a nickel bag of pot, eat at the club, and that was his life. I did that gig for a couple years.
I was also freelancing and got to do all kinds of gigs all over New York: weddings, parties, nightclubs, Jazz gigs - anything to survive. I really learned my craft then. Not just Jazz playing but how to be a musician in the real world.
After a few years I auditioned for the Jazz vocalist Jon Hendricks. His was one of the few full time road gigs around then so everybody wanted it. They held an open audition and there were at least fifty Jazz pianists there and everybody got to play one song. We all played well, but I was the only guy there in a three-piece suit and I think that was why Jon hired me. I stayed with him as his musical director for four years touring the world and playing all the clubs and festivals.
CAD: What was it like to work with Jon Hendricks and then his daughter, Michele Hendricks?
D.L.: The gig with Jon Hendricks was when I really learned how to be on the road as an international Jazz artist and how to do concerts successfully. At the time I had a choice between music school and traveling with Jon performing at Jazz clubs and festivals with one of the most creative Bebop singers ever. So my four years with Hendricks was my university. Our first tour was in Israel for a series of concerts. Marvin âSmittyâ Smith was the drummer and there were four singers including Jon and a bassist. The first gig we had no rehearsal and we were outside in an ancient Roman amp theater in Northern Israel near the border of Lebanon. This was during the war between Lebanon and Israel so there was a lot of military everywhere. Why they had a music festival at that time I will never know. We were playing opposite Airto, the Brazilian drummer, and his band from LA, and John Pattitucci, on bass, so we had to sound good. I was sight reading all the arrangements and they were difficult and demanding. A lot of really up tempos and difficult keys with a lot of blowing for the piano chair. Just as we started the first song a huge gust of wind blew all the charts across the stage so I had to play the show by ear. Nice! We were there a couple weeks and then flew back to New York, drove to San Diego in three days in a van and did a concert with Dizzy Gilespie that night. We toured California and then across the U.S., getting back to New York three months later and did a week in a club there. It really changed my life. For four years after that we were on the road more than we were home and I got road tough. Sometimes Jon Hendricks and I would travel and pick up rhythm sections and sometimes we would take a band. We went to Europe, South America, Canada, all over the U.S. and played regularly in New York. We played with symphonies, did TV shows, festival, clubs, and radio-really everything there was to do. We played opposite everybody from Miles Davis to Count Basie. It was one of the few full time touring Jazz gigs in the 1980s and I loved it. After about six months Jon was nice enough to give me billing and they would announce us as Jon Hendricks and company with David Leonhardt Trio. Musically Jon is a super-talented guy and scatted better solos than most horn players so the pressure to be really top-notch was intense. I knew that if I let him down he would fire me and get the next young piano virtuoso coming up. That is probably the best motivation to be excellent you can have.
Jon and his wife, Judith, who also sang in the group, loved to go to gourmet restaurants and they would often take the whole band. So there was a lot of four-star meals in Europe with fine wines and all that. We would go to France for three months at a time and they would rent a villa for the tour and then do concerts and gigs throughout Europe. A lot of flying and trains and then back to the South of France.
After a while I formed a band with his daughter, Michele Hendricks, who is a great vocalist. We toured for a few years picking up bands in Europe, Japan, and the U.S. We would get gigs in cool places and vacation after the gig was up as long as we could. I had no kids or real obligations so it was like a fantasy really. Being on the road and having people treat you like an artist, staying in resorts at exotic places, playing Jazz all the time, going back to New York and then doing it all over again somewhere else. Between Jon and Michele it was really eight years of Jazz heaven.
CAD: During the past several years we have seen an unprecedented increase in self produced efforts (recordings) by Jazz musicians. What is the history of your own label? Do you view the recordings as being successful both artistically and financially?
D.L.: I started Big Bang recording in 1991 when I moved out of New York. It was a transitional time in the recording industry and records were out and CDs were in. I was able to be in the vanguard of the self-producers, labels by musicians who wanted to take control of their recording life. I had played on and produced a bunch of recordings in the â80s and really had no desire to work on anymore projects that werenât totally under my control. I needed the freedom to pick the musicians, the songs, the studio, and the musical direction or I couldnât work. I was tired of having someone else look over my shoulder. It really was an awakening for me in terms of understanding what a product music can be and where the benefits go from that. My first two CDs, Departure and Reflections, transformed my career from being sideman to a leader. I got reviews and airplay and was able to use them as a way of starting my touring life as a leader and getting recognition for having my own voice. I now have fifteen under my own name and they all make money and continue to sell. Each has accomplished something concrete artistically as well as being vehicles for me to book concerts around.
Now I sell them on my web site and through various distributors and at my concerts so it is another income stream which helps. My CD Reflections is a trio CD with Peter Washington and Lewis Nash, who I played with in New York. This is one where my trio style was noticed. It is the one that a lot of young musicians at the time listened to. In fact, my bass player now, Mathew Parrish, says it is one of his favorite CDs and I think it is why he plays with me now. My vocal and piano CD A Time for Love enabled me to book an eleven concert tour of Italy with the vocalist Nancy Reed. My Gershwin CD led to about twenty concerts of Gershwin in a modern Jazz interpretation that my band does and I am still booking that. I did Jazz For Kids because we present a Kids concert that is really a blast. There is nothing like playing for hundreds of enthusiastic children and letting them in to the experience and excitement of a Jazz concert. I hope that I am building an audience for the future as well with that.
CAD: The traditional trajectory for many mainstream artists is a ballad date, big band session and strings - are any of those settings in your future?
D.L.: I would like to do a ballad date at some point. The idea of putting together an album where the listener can relax and be transported to a state of trance-like appreciation appeals to the communicator in me. A big band session probably will not happen as I feel more comfortable in small groups of musicians. I did a string album with Fathead a few years back and would like to do one of my own sometime in a more modern vein, not standards but improvised classical/romantic/Chopinesque.
CAD: What was your impression of the portrayal of âFatheadâ in the movie Ray?
D.L.: When I play with âFatheadâ now it is really like family. I have been on the road with him and his wife on and off for 16 years. We have done Jazz cruises together, stayed in European hotels together, flown together, driven together, stayed for weeks on end in apartments together, recorded together and had countless magical musical moments together. As much as I enjoyed the musical segments in the movie Ray there was nothing in the portrayal of David Newman in that movie that I recognized. That was a totally made up Hollywood version of what some writer thought would make a dramatic friend and musical cohort for Ray Charles. My sincere hope is that the real âFatheadâ get a much deserved career boost from the movie.
CAD: One of the more interesting projects that you are involved with is collaborating with a tap dancer...
D.L.: I have been lucky to play with a lot of the older Tap dance masters before they died. It is really like playing with a great Jazz drummer because they know all those rhythms so well. When I was with Jon Hendricks we did a lot of shows and he would bring in these great tap dancers to perform with us-Honi Coles, Buster Brown, Cookie Cook, Sandman Sims. We also played with other dancers, jitterbugers, Lindy Hoppers, and once we did Atlantic City with comedian Redd Foxx and he had two Korean dancers. Later I played with others like Savion Glover and Jimmy Slide, Diane Walker, and also a lot of younger guys. I helped get Manhattan Tap off the ground in the â80s when there werenât any young groups doing tap. I was their musical director and we did a lot of shows in New York and toured Europe, China, Canada, and the U.S. doing concerts. That is where I met my wife, Shelley Oliver, who was one of the founding members of Manhattan Tap. She is an incredible dancer and choreographer and now I tour quite often as musical director with The Shelley Oliver Tap Dancers, her group of five female dancers. Shelley and I have produced seven tap dance CDs Tap Music For Tap Dancers for dancers to jam with for dance classes, and are well known in the tap world.
When we first met in 1989 we were on tour in China with a group of thirty American performers, Jazz dancers, singers, tap dancers, and I had my trio. We were there for about five weeks during the Tienemen Square uprising and got to experience that whole thing. Everywhere we went there were demonstrations that kept getting bigger and bigger. Of course we had no idea what was going on because there was a news blackout in China. We were traveling through the mainland partying hard and performing for huge crowds of thirty thousand people at stadiums and such as guests of the government and then all of a sudden there was no government. They cancelled our performance in Beijing and packed us off. As we left the city the troops were moving in. Then we flew home and found out what had been going on down there.
Now we have been married for thirteen years and have two kids, nine and eleven, and take them on the road with us in a 31-foot Winnebago. We travel with ten performers, five dancers, and five musicians, two kids and two pugs.
CAD: Certainly two of the most intriguing personalities that you performed with were Stan Getz and Woody Shaw. Both men seem to embody musical creativity but were fraught with personal minefields...
D.L.: Both of those guys have notorious reputations but I canât speak to that as when I played with each they were as nice as can be. I recorded an album with Stan Getz and he acted just like a regular musician. We went over the material in the studio and he even was asking me the changes on the bridge of âPrelude To A Kissâ because he hadnât played it for awhile. A lot of âStarsâ would not be that forthcoming but he just wanted to do a good job and make good music. That session was one of the highlights of my career. As soon as Stan started playing, it was amazing to hear his sound; it was right to me because I was so familiar with it from records. I saw him a few months after that in Italy backstage at a concert and he introduced me to Dexter Gordon and recommended me to him. Stan really was a sweetheart at that point in his life. He was older and seemed to have found a calmness about being who he was.
When I played with Woody Shaw I was playing in a New Yearâs Eve gig at a club in New York and it was being broadcast live on NPR coast to coast. They recorded all three sets and anyone who sat in got a check for a hundred dollars. After the first set the word got out in the other clubs and a lot of guys showed up to pick up some quick money. Art Blakey was hanging out with Wood that night and so they both came and sat in for a set. It was a smoking set - all off the cuff, unrehearsed, but amazing music. Wood and Art both were as nice as could be. We were just hanging out and playing. So my take on them was that they were musicians first and emotional human beings second.
CAD: Looking over your sideman work with Herbie Mann, George Benson, Wynton Marsalis and Manhattan Transfer - would you agree that those gigs were generally high paying?
D.L.: To be honest the only time I ever make really good money is when I am the leader. A sideman can make a good living but there are only a few real Jazz gigs that you can live as well as someone who works for a corporation. Maybe three in the world. as you move more in to pop Jazz the money goes up. But I got into music for fun not for money. (And for the chicks when I was younger. You do meet a lot of women as a traveling Jazz artist. Or at least I did when I was single.)
Herbie Mann and I did record Celebration and a live video at Birdland with him and Ron Carter. That paid well as I remember but it was a one-shot deal. Herbie also produced a few records that I was on and always paid double scale, which was lucrative as well. When I played with the singers from Manhattan Transfer, we did a series of concerts at different times but not under the Manhattan Transfer name. We did one tour of the West Coast with them and Bobby McFerrin, Dianne Reeves, and Jon Hendricks with my trio. I donât remember the money but I am sure it was respectable. Really, when I do those kinds of gigs I donât care about the money, I just enjoy the music.
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