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Extended Analysis

Jay Leonhart Trio: Cool

By Published: March 23, 2005
Jay Leonhart Trio
Sons of Sound

Leonhart says that the music from his new album Cool gets hot, and he's right. It has music taken from films, musical plays and jazz classics. The experienced bassist, who started in music at seven playing banjo and guitar, is a real entertainer and shows us the amiable and comical face of jazz. From the beginning this Cd produces on listeners an involuntary movement of head and feet to the rhythm of syncopated music. Solos from the three instruments are very enjoyable. Leonhart is escorted by two important figures of today's jazz international scene. The pianist Ted Rosenthal is responsible for the arrangement of seven pieces from this album. Joe Cohn contributes with his bright guitar performance and demonstrates that he has a great musical future. Joe's father, the tenor saxophonist Al Cohn, wrote three tracks from Cool.

Choosing the best pieces from this album is complicated, most of them are performed magnificently, but the first four tracks of the album are the most effervescent. The Opening "Take Four", makes people quit angry faces and smile. It was composed by Al Cohn and it appeared for the first time in his 1981 album Nonpareil. Piano, bass and guitar play at unison, at certain moments of the piece.

Afterward there is a subtle scat by Leonhart. The next step is a solo by Cohn and a solo by the bassist in which the influence of Ray Brown is felt. A more audible scat by Leonhart comes and. finally piano closes the track.

"If I only had a brain" written by Harold Arlen and E. Y. Harburg for the classic film The Wizard of Oz suffers an interesting arrangement by Rosenthal. It starts with a somber piano, but then changes to a joyful tone when the bass comes. This piece asks the question of its title in an innocent almost childish, but clever way. Again, Jay does scat while playing his vibrant bass solos. This track is extremely different to the original played by the NBC orchestra in 1939. Rosenthal did a great job to adjust it for a trio. In the film this piece is dedicated to the scarecrow, but in Cool, Leonhart jokes saying he chose this track to refer himself and his bass.

In the piece that entitles the album, Leonhart sings enjoying every word that comes out from his mouth. It was written by Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim, two composers Leonhart admires and pays homage to by naming his latest album: Cool. This mysterious track starts with an elegant finger game by Rosenthal, which take you back to his idols Oscar Peterson and McCoy Tyner. Scat couldn't be missing, while the band leader plays solos with his instrument. Cohn does a great support job during the whole track.

"Nobody else but me" begins with a joyful piano, from the arranger of the piece, afterward the guitar and the bass join. According to Leonhart it's a track you can dance if you are around the fifth floor of you life. This piece emerged in the musical Show Boat from 1927, it was written by Oscar Hammerstein II and Jerome Kern for Jan Clayton (who played the starring female role, Magnolia, in the play). Show Boat attained a great success in Broadway.

The rest of the tracks are a mixture of beautifully reharmonized classical pieces ("C Jam Blues"); sonority memories from a famous jazz club in Detroit where figures like Tommy Flanagan and Kenny Burrell played in their youth ("My Bluebird"); reinterpretations from songs composed by the legendary pianist "Fats" Waller ("Jitterburg Waltz"), Leonhart compositions ("For Real"), and Half Note's club memories from the band leader who respectfully remembers Al Cohn and Zoot Sims playing "Two Funky People". Leonhart sealed up this album alongside with his two comrades in a very gentle way, which makes the listeners to push play and listen the thirteen pieces again.

Track listing: 1. Take Four; 2. If I Only had a brain; 3. Cool; 4. Nobody else but me; 5. Shall we dance; 6. My Bluebird; 7. Jitterbug Waltz; 8. C Jam blues; 9. You and me; 10. I loves you, Porgy; 11. Bop Kick; 12. For Real; 13. Two funky people.

Personnel: Jay Leonhart: bass and vocals; Ted Rosenthal: piano; Joe Cohn: guitar.

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