Encyclopedia of Jazz Musicians
Leitham, Jennifer (Jane) (John Leithman)
She plays left handed. Leitham played electric bass first. 1971 graduate of Upper Merion Area High School in King of Prussia, PA and later lived in Philadelphia. During high school she played electric bass with an area rock group, "mostly because I can sing well. I was professional for about five years then started to study. I picked up string bass at about the age of 22 and that became a kind of obsession. Then I spent about six years of serious study with Al Stauffer in South Philadelphia and southern New Jersey. During that time I played in the staff band at Palumbo's. When I stated studying I became interested in the acoustic. It took me about a year of practice before I started to play acoustic professionally."
Stauffer, who died in 1993, was not known outside Philadelphia, Leitham said. But "he was the most influential man I ever met" the bassist said. Stauffer also introduced Leitham to jazz with recordings of Oscar Peterson and Ray Brown, and others. In 1981, Leitham was selected for Woody Herman's Big Band and began his world travels.
Leitham moved to Southern California in 1983 and lived in Studio City, with his wife (married ca. 1982) Victoria, an interactive- media specialist.
In 1987, after recording the Grammy nominated A Vintage Year with George Shearing and Mel Torme , Jennifer began her long association with Mel that continued right up to the time of Mel's unfortunate stroke in August of 1996. Some of the highlights of Jennifer's tenure with Mel included recording 10 CDs for Mel, playing nine performances at Carnegie Hall, nine performances at The Hollywood Bowl, numerous television appearances, and performing with almost every major symphony in North America.
In addition to Mel, Jennifer has worked with many distinguished artists including Woody Herman, Gerry Mulligan, Peggy Lee, Joe Pass, Cleo Laine, Louis Bellson, Pete Rugolo, Bill Watrous, and numerous others. She has also been a member of the Tonight Show All-Stars, The Woody Herman Thundering Herd, Benny Carter Quintet, Bob Cooper Quartet, and more. Jennifer currently tours with Doc Severinsen, performing with major symphony orchestras and his Big Band.
Jennifer has been invited to perform as a featured artist or group member at almost every major jazz festival in North America and many overseas. She is also a presenter at workshops and clinics around the country, including the International Society of Bassists convention (ca. 2003). I have a small group jazz version of "West Side Story" that I wrote ca. 1998 for the American Jazz Institute."
Performing on her Paesold bass, Jennifer is an artist/clinician for Boosey and Hawkes. She endorses Hofner electric bass and Paesold upright bass. She is working privately on Bach's cello suites, translated to the bass.
My hormone therapy started in September of 2001 and I transitioned in Philadelphia November 21, 2001 and had surgery scheduled for July 2002. During this time she was trailed by a television crew from The Learning Channel for a documentary on sex reassignment. I've returned to doing clinics and have been received very well. Boosey and Hawkes has retained my services as an endorser of both Paesold and Hofner basses, and I've added Acoustic Image amplifiers and The Realist pickup to my list of endorsements.
In addition to her successful performance career, Jennifer has made over 70 recordings.
Leitham Up (1989); John Leitham Live! (1997); The Southpaw; Lefty Leaps In; Two for the Road (duo with Jimmy Bruno)
KANU - Lawrence, Kansas - Bob McWilliams
NPR - Jazz Profiles "Mel Tor me" hosted by Nancy Wilson
KBSU - Boise, ID - Helen Borgers
KETR - Commerce, TX - Bruce Tater
KLON - Long Beach, CA - Ken Borgers and Helen Borgers
KSDS - San Diego, CA - Tony Sisti
WFBE - Flint, MI - Denis Naranjo
WYPE - Elkhart, IN - Tim Eby and Claudia Russell
WBGH - Boston, MA - Ron Dela Chiesa
KUER - Salt Lake City, UT - Stephen Williams
WTBN - St. Thomas, Virgin Islands - Harry Illingsworth
KSOF - Wichita, KS - Dan Taylor
KSTN - Minneapolis, MN - Leigh Kamman
KTUH - Honolulu, HI - Frank Amarino
Television broadcasts and videos:
Jennifer Jane Leitham has numerous television appearances to her credit including:
Broadcast on the Arts & Entertainment network A&E Presents:
An Evening With Mel Torme Live From The Disney Institute
The Tonight Show with The Ed Shaughnessy Quintet
Night Court with Mel Torme
The Christmas Songs with Mel Torme, Maureen McGovern and Doc Severinsen on PBS
Impressions of Hollywood Boulevard with Tommy Tedesco on VH1
The Arsenio Hall Show with Doc Severinsen
Live with Regis and Kathy Lee with Doc Severinsen
She has also appeared in the following videos:
Live from Ambassador with Mel Torme
A&E Presents Mel Torme Live From The Disney Institute with Mel Torme
Hollywood Gypsy with Tommy Tedesco
Feature articles: Kalbacher, Gene Artz Magazine (Oct./Nov., 1993) - A Gracious Grateful Superstar Mel Torme
Stewart, Zan - Los Angeles Times (Oct. 8, 1993) - Learning Situations
Baca, Judy - Norristown Times Herald (Sept. 17, 1993) - Bassist John Leitham Returns to Home Turf
Degroff, Pam - TG Forum (an internet newsletter)(October 7, 2002) - Excerpts from an Interview
Lee, Nancy Ann -Jazz Times (April, 1997) - John Leitham
Okin, Earl - British Airways' In-Flight Magazine, 'High Life' (June, 1998) - When Benny Smiles (The King With Nine Lives)
Lance, Gina - Girl Talk Magazine (March, 2002) -Jennifer Leitham: Going Solo-ist
Fulmer, Marcia - The Truth (June, 2002) - Bassist Leitham at top of her form in return to Elkhart
Tricia Toney - DiverseCityWorks.com (October, 2003) -Jazz Bassist Jennifer Leitham Changes Key
Jennifer was the Cover Story in the September Issue of Cadence, the Review of Jazz and Blues: Creative Improvised Music! Volume 28 Number 9 September 2002
Jennifer was the Cover Story of a feature article by Lynell George on the front page of the L.A. Times Calendar section Sunday August 31, 2003