Bil and Jay Leonhart — jazz-wielding musical brothers who make their homes on opposite coasts — unite tonight, Jan. 20, for an evening of standards and originals played on acoustic guitar and stand-up bass. Guitar maestro Jeff Pevar will sit in.
"The concert really centers around Jay's songs," says Bil Leonhart, a musician on Ashland's scene since 1989. "He's a serious, comic songwriter. He's like Tom Lehrer, Dave Frishberg or Loudon Wainwright III. His verses can make you laugh and squirm at the same time. He makes utterly autobiographic subject matter sound universal."
Who: The Leonhart Brothers with Jeff Pevar
When: 8 p.m. Monday, Jan. 20
Where: Avalon Bar & Grill, 105 W. Valley View Road, Talent
Cover: $15 to $20
Jay Leonhart makes his home in New York City, where he's worked as a soloist and sideman for a number of notables such as Mel Torme and Peggy Lee.
The Leonhart brothers will accompany each other at 8 p.m. Monday, Jan. 20, at Avalon Bar & Grill, 105 W. Valley View Road, Talent. Guitar aficionado Jeff Pevar will sit in with the duo.
What distinguishes Jay Leonhart's musical comedy is that he enters into a relationship with the bass that suggests a ventriloquist act: The singer and the bass carry on an edgy dialogue in which the bass registers the songs' unspoken subjects, according to Bil Leonhart.
"He'll open his show with his witty, self-deprecating "It's Impossible to Sing and Play the Bass," a funny song about singing along with a fretless instrument. Part of the lyric is 'You spend your whole life wondering where the hell you are,' " Bil Leonhart says.
"I play his music, play solos over his tunes. He not only plays pizzicato (plucking the strings) on the bass, but he also bows (arco) many of his solos beautifully."
Bil Leonhart plays improvisational seven-string jazz guitar, combining Bach-like chordal movements by American swing and jazz guitarist George Van Eps with fingerstyle picking and running bass lines.
"Eps invented the seven-string guitar in 1940," Bil Leonhart says. "I think he invented it for the same reason that I added a seventh string to my guitar."
While Bil Leonhart was growing up and playing guitar with his siblings, he grew accustomed to hearing Jay Leonhart's bass lines.
"Eps also had a brother who played stand-up bass," he says. "I thinks that's why he added a seventh string to his guitar. You can't get those low notes without it on a guitar. You can't put that bottom end on it."
Monday's concert will feature original music by the Leonhart brothers, along with a smattering of standards by Leonard Bernstein, Cole Porter, George Gershwin, Hoagy Carmichael and others.
Raised in Baltimore, the Leonharts played at parties in their teens before pursuing formal music education: Jay Leonhart studied under Oscar Peterson and at Berklee College of Music, and Bil Leonhart studied under Aaron Shearer at Peabody Conservatory.
"Very early on, we got to play with famous players who encouraged us," Bil Leonharts says. "Then we polished it off with some formal training."
Bil Leonhart has appeared on both coasts as a soloist and sideman at such venues as Yoshi's — a jazz mecca in the San Francisco Bay Area and The Blue Note and LeMadleine Restaurant in New York City.
He's a regular performer at Paschal Winery, the Playwright Public House and — during the warmer months — Rosario's. He and Cyd Smith formed jazz guitar duo HartSmith and play various wine-tasting rooms and restaurants in the Rogue Valley.
His passion is accompanying his wife, singer Presila Quinby. The couple have a CD titled "Alone Together." It's available by calling 541-890-5393.