Saturday, January 4, 2014

Interview with Jennifer Leitham

Jennifer Leitham (photo by Mary Ann Halpin)
This year, I'll be wrapping up the interviews, which now number 33 and counting, for my Women In Jazz book proejct, as well as completing a rather expansive introduction to the book that provides some historical context for the project.

Next up, I'll be interviewing bassist Jennifer Leitham, who is widely regarded as one of the finest bassists of our time. Her resume includes playing bass with Doc Severinsen, the Woody Herman Thundering Herd, and Mel Tormé. As a bandleader, she has recorded three albums with the bass presented uncompromisingly as the lead instrument in a trio format and featuring original compositions that draw on many styles across the history of jazz.

The award-winning film “I Stand Corrected” (2012) documents Jennifer’s transition from John to Jennifer, a transition she bravely made at a peak in her career and with the support of several high profile musicians, including aforementioned Severinsen and Tormé. In recent years, the trans-rights movement, a movement that demands tolerance and equal rights for transgender men and women, has grown to a point where more young people than ever are able to find the support they need to come out as transgender and be safe from infringement upon their human rights, bullying, or worse. At the time of this writing, over 600 U.S. colleges and universities have "adopted nondiscriminatory policies to cover gender expression," and many of those schools have jazz music programs. Leitham’s story will be a welcome contribution to the diversity of voices and perspectives already offered in the book.

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