In the 1970s and ’80s, pianist/vocalist/composer Bob Dorough was Music Director of Schoolhouse Rock!, a three-minute vignette aired by ABC Television as part of its Saturday morning cartoons. Dorough wrote songs about mathematics, grammar, history, and civics with titles such as “My Hero Zero”, “Three is a Magic Number”, “Conjunction Junction”, and “Sufferin’ Til Suffrage”.
Through his connections in the music business, he was able to recruit other well-known musicians to get involved with some of the songs. Vocalist Blossom Dearie sang “Figure Eight” and “Unpack Your Adjectives”, and pianist/vocalist/composer Dave Frishberg wrote “I’m Just a Bill” about the legislative process.
On Sunday afternoon, January 7, pianist/vocalist Daryl Sherman and bassist/vocalist Jay Leonhart (photo above) will pay tribute to Dorough, Dearie, and Frishberg at the New Jersey Jazz Society’s Jersey Jazz LIVE! concert at the Madison, NJ, Community Arts Center. They will be reprising a similar tribute performed last August at Birdland in New York City.
Author, historian, and Jersey Jazz Magazine columnist Dan Morgenstern, writing about the Birdland appearance, said, “No duo could be better suited to salute those three diversely talented legends. Both Daryl and Jay, being singers, instrumentalists, and songwriters, also share their subjects’ artistry, humor, plus individual mastery of interpretation. Jay Leonhart appears on many Blossom Dearie recordings, and Daryl has recorded with Dave Frishberg and Bob Dorough.”
Sherman has been part of the New York City jazz scene since the mid-1970s. She is perhaps best known for her 15 years of playing on the Cole Porter piano at the Waldorf-Astoria. In 2012, Sherman released an album called Mississippi Belle: Cole Porter in the Quarter on the Audiophile label. Reviewing it for Jersey Jazz, Joe Lang wrote that, “Sherman’s intimate vocal style, fabulous phrasing, and inventive self-accompaniment on piano produced an album that would surely have pleased Mr. Porter and will have a similar effect on his legions of admirers.”
Leonhart has played with a who’s who of the jazz and pop world. Among the vocalists he accompanied were Judy Garland, Peggy Lee, and Mel Torme, and he has shared the bandstand with jazz legends such as Duke Ellington, Thad Jones, and Marian McPartland.
DownBeat‘s Robert Ham, reviewing Leonhart’s 2020 Sunnyside album, Joy, (with pianist Tomoko Ohno and drummer Vito Lesczak) wrote, “at age 79, Leonhart’s still playing the bass with the nimble hands of a youngster . . . His music is pure comfort food, uplifted by his plainspoken delivery and his dry, dad joke-heavy sense of humor.” The New York Times has called him, “one of the most sought-after standup bass players on the New York pop-jazz scene.”
Sherman and Leonhart will be preceded by a Rising Stars opening act featuring a duo led by violinist/vocalist Jacquie Lee (photo below), a Montclair resident and a freshman at the Manhattan School of Music. She will be accompanied by guitarist Derick Campos, who grew up in Fort Lee, NJ. He was a 2022 New Jersey Jazz Society scholarship recipient.
Lee was the Rising Star in the April 2023 issue of Jersey Jazz. At the Charles Mingus Festival & High School Competition, held last February at The New School, Lee received an Outstanding Soloist Award. One of the songs she performed was Mingus’ “The Dry Cleaner From Des Moines” with lyrics by Joni Mitchell, who sang it on her1979 Asylum album, Mingus. Asked about her favorite jazz violinist of the past, Lee said, “Stuff Smith, one of the most swinging cats of all time.”
The Madison Community Arts Center is located at 10 Kings Road in Madison, NJ. The Jersey Jazz LIVE! concerts will begin at 3 p.m. Admission will be $10 for NJJS members and $15 for non-members. Student admission is $5 with valid ID. There will be light refreshments for purchase. To order tickets in advance, log onto https://MadisonArts.ticketleap.com/jersey-jazz-live-01-07-2024.
Funding for Jersey Jazz Live! has been made possible, in part, by funds from Morris Arts through the New Jersey State Council on the Arts/Department of State, a partner agency of The National Endowment for the Arts.
SHERMAN/LEONHART PHOTO BY ERIC STEPHEN JACOBS