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Jay and Bil Leonhart's annual reunion show — CANCELED

Growing up in Baltimore, brothers Bil and Jay Leonhart were musical cohorts. By the time Bil reached age 12, the pair could play piano, banjo, guitar, ukulele and mandolin. As teens, they joined a Dixieland jazz band which brought them local stardom. They appeared on "The Today Show" and received airtime on the radio. About this time, both boys discovered their niche: Bil became fixed on guitar, and Jay began playing bass almost exclusively.

With all this camaraderie, there was no room for rivalry.

"We've always just rejoiced in each other's talent," says Bil.

In fact, by the time the boys parted ways, Bil was so accustomed to playing with his brother and hearing the low bass notes that he had a bass string added to his guitar. He has been playing seven-string guitar ever since.

After high school, Bil headed off to Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., and Jay attended The Peabody Institute in Baltimore, followed by Berklee College of Music in Boston and the Advanced School of Contemporary Music in Toronto. Bil settled in Oregon, Jay in New York City.

Both musicians pursued their individual musical aspirations on opposite sides of the country but once a year reunite "to concertize." The brothers will make their annual appearance at 8 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 28, at Avalon Bar & Grill, 105 W. Valley View Road, Talent.

While both brothers, now in their 70s, were faithful to jazz, Bil became more of a solo artist and Jay an accompanying bassist.

Jay has been featured on numerous records, films, commercials and Broadway shows. He also has appeared with several renowned artists of the 20th century, including Judy Garland, Liza Minnelli, Tony Bennett, Frank Sinatra, Mel Tormé and Peggy Lee.

"I have been a freelance musician all my life," says Jay. "The only person I work regularly for is myself."

Jay has released about 10 solo albums, the most recent being "The Bass Lesson" (2004). The jazz-flavored album features Jay on bass and vocals, performing his original compositions.

“I have to make sure the bass line and the melody provide enough harmonic content that people can tell what the song is about,” he says.

Jay also braids humorous lyrics with his melody and bass line, which frequently induces a chuckle from the audience.

Examples of his witty songwriting include “Bass Aboard a Plane,” “Iguanas and Lizards” and “They're Coming to Get Me.”

"When I start writing, I really don't know they (the songs) are going to be funny, but somehow humor just finds its way into them," he says.

Bil, an Ashland resident, is a familiar face in the local music scene. He performs solo and as a duo with Cyd Smith, forming Hartsmith, for private parties, wineries, First Friday shows and Ashland restaurants. He also has appeared in local productions, including Camelot Theatre's "Rags," Southern Oregon University's "Johnny Johnson" and Ashland High School's "Chicago."

Bil's wife, vocalist Presila Quinby, will perform at the Avalon with the Leonharts. Cover to the show is $10. Call 541-512-8864.

Jay Leonhart is a prominent guitarist in the New York music scene, having played with other greats, including Tony Bennett, Mel Lewis and Thad Jones. - Photo by www.jonasmusicservices.com
Bil Leonhart can play almost any instrument made of wood and strings, including banjo, mandolin, bass and guitar. - Photo by Christopher Briscoe