The Jennifer Leitham Trio
A talented jazz musician, Jennifer Leitham began her musical journey in the 1970's as an electric bass player. It was not long before she switched to string bass however, under the tutelage of teacher Al Stauffer. To this day, he remains her greatest influence.
One of the most amazing musical experiences that Jennifer has had the pleasure of performing was touring with Mel Torme. Having recently moved to Los Angeles, Jennifer was working her way up the ranks musically. One night, she received a call from George Shearing stating he needed a bass player to play with him the next morning. Jennifer took the gig. But surprise, surprise – she was also playing for Mel Torme! Mel decided then and there to use Jennifer as his bass player, and she was with him until 1996. They even recorded a live album – which won Mel a Grammy for best jazz vocal.
Jennifer has also performed with Peggy Lee, Woody Herman, Benny Carter, Louis Bellson, Doc Severinsen, and K.D. Lang. “I love the fact that I play – instead of work – for a living,” says Jennifer “It's just an exuberance that comes over you when you play music. I love improvising and the conversation that happens – it's just magical.”
Jennifer has faced obstacles both personally and professionally. Having been assigned male at birth, but never feeling comfortable in that gender, Jennifer transitioned in 2001. The change in her attitude and confidence was immediate. She felt free to be herself, on and offstage. Her dreams were on their way to becoming reality – she had become the person she had always wanted to be.
Jennifer's journey was profiled in the documentary film “I Stand Corrected”. One of the many ways transitioning increased her self confidence was onstage. Before her transition, Jennifer always sat on a stool while performing. She was afraid if she stood up people would suspect the truth. But now she moves freely across the stage – and never sits while playing the bass!
The transition did come with consequences however, affecting her career. At first it was a challenge to find acceptance amongst the jazz community. However, this lukewarm reception spurred Jennifer to form her own group – allowing her to be the band leader she is today – with ten solo albums to her name.
“It made me think more about my own music. I put out a CD called “The Real Me” and it sold 20,000 CDs in one year – a hit record in the jazz world,” says Jennifer. “That established me as an artist and ever since that's been my main focus. I like being my own boss!”
Drummer Randy Drake and Jennifer have been playing together since the 1980's so he was a shoo-in to be in The Jennifer Leitham Trio. They met while both playing for Bill Watrous, one of the finest jazz trombonists in the world. When Jennifer recorded “The Real Me” she knew she wanted to have Randy play. Pianist Andy Langham, has performed with the band for 11 years. “Andy impresses me so much,” says Jennifer. “He played on my live DVD filmed concert – and knocked my socks off!”
What's the best part about jazz? The musical conversation. “When you have like-minded people on the stage with you there's a give and take,” says Jennifer. “No two shows are alike. Each performance is of the moment.”
Jennifer plans to launch a crowd-funding campaign to help put out a politically themed CD called “Remnants of Humanity” with tons of new material. In the meantime you can check out her music on Spotify and Pandora as well as her website www.jenniferleitham.com
The Jennifer Leitham Trio will perform at Jazz ‘n Paz, a concert series based in Pasadena on March 11. For more info, log onto http://neighborhooduu.org/jazz