Correspondence: Mickey Leonard

Mickey LeonardThe Rifftides webmaster received a communiqué from the distinguished songwriter Mickey Leonard (pictured) about the Fred Astaire-Rita Hayworth videos in the next exhibit.

This is the absolute best thing I’ve ever seen/heard with “Stayin’
Alive” & those two spectacular dancers. Bravo for such a wonderful thing to do. Without question, fantastic!!! Thank you from a most appreciative composer who generally doesn’t like anything. THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU!!!

Mr. Leonard—described by critic Will Friedwald as “a beloved staple of the jazz and cabaret scenes”—is the composer of “I’m All Smiles,” “Why Did I Choose You” and “Not Exactly Paris,” among other standard songs. His arrangement of Luiz Eca’s “The Dolphin” is the highlight of the 1969 album From Left to Right, in which he collaborated with pianist Bill Evans. Here is what I wrote about that Evans track in a Down Beat magazine review.

Evans’ solo on “The Dolphin” is one of his finest, on a par with his best work in the Portraits and Explorations albums with Scott LaFaro and Paul Motian. Leonard’s orchestration in the “After” version complements perfectly what Evans and the rhythm section had improvised in the “Before.” The lily is enhanced by the gilding as Leonard harmonizes Evans’ solo for flutes and piccolo, with the improvised piano line in the lead. It is a moment of absolute beauty.

For further appreciation of Mickey Leonard, see this 2011 Will Friedwald article in the online Wall Street Journal.

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  1. Joe Lang says

    I saw Mickey several times during the last two weeks at the New York 92nd Street Y “Jazz in July” series guided by the hands of artistic director Bill Charlap, and again on last Friday at a club date by the singer Joyce Breach who sang the three songs that you mentioned, with Mickey beaming at a front table. “Not Exactly Paris” is one of my wife’s favorite songs, and Joyce does it beautifully. It is about time that he is receiving some of the recognition that he has long deserved.

    There is a new album by the fine singer Maud Hixson that is comprised completely of songs by MIckey. She has the wonderful Warren Vache on the disc.