True to his intentions, pianist David Leonhardt gathered together four other all-star jazz players Wednesday night at Lafayette College and before an audience of about 200, deftly avoiding the pitfalls of all-star jazz conglomerations.
With the exception of Leonhardt himself, all the other musicians on stage were established "name" jazz players: altoist Gary Bartz, fluegelhornist Tom Harrel, bassist Ray Drummond and drummer Lewis Nash.
But the gig, organized by Leonhardt several months ago as part of his artist in residence at Lafayette, showed that the pianist, who now makes his home in the Easton area, deserves big-time respect, even if he lacks, for the moment, the name recognition of the other players.
The group played standards, as well as several tunes written by Leonhardt, some of those from his newly released compact disc, "Departure" (Big Band Records). Leonhardt's tunes were some of the most varied, and most compelling compositions of the night. "Winnipeg Blues," the second number, and Sao Paulo Samba," which closed the first set were filled with blues and Latin references, respectively, and showcased Leonhardt's talents as both a soloist and an accompanist.
Leonhardt also made definite connections with the skillful drumming work of Nash. Both seemed to be communicating rhythms and accents in a way that could best be described as telepathic.
Each horn player also selected a standard as a showcase piece. Bartz picked "I Want To Talk About You," a song Bartz said was famous by the late Billy Eckstine. Harrell selected "Darn That Dream," a tune he has recorded.
With his understated, somewhat dreamy sound, Bartz seemed in better form on this particular evening than Harrell, whose tone and execution failed him at times. Still, Harrell's playing on both fluegelhorn and trumpet, his second horn, suggested some of the brilliance of which he is capable.