Elegantly dressed and poised in front of the piano David Leonhardt's fingers stroked the keys releasing the gentle strains of "On Green Dolphin Street". The notes lifted off the stage to hover above the crowd and were joined by the sounds of the plucked upright bass and the soft percussive beat of the drums. Leonhardt's smile and exuberant playing waltzed, strolled and then ran through a pocket of originals.
Leonhardt's professional career as a pianist, composer and musical director has spanned 20 years. Collaborations with saxophonist David "Fathead" Newman, legendary vocalist Jon Hendricks, and the late Stan Getz established for him a solid reputation in the jazz world. He now tours and records frequently leading his own groups often adding a new dimension to the music, like tap. "Shelley Oliver was in a group of young tap dancers and asked if I would be their musical director. At the time they weren't seasoned professionals but they had a lot of ambition. They worked really hard and we formed the group Manhattan Tap and toured for about three years. That broke up and we reformed with this kind of ensemble to do concerts like this," explains David.
The wooden planks that had earlier been laid down on the stage now reverberated with the sharp crackling beats of Sweet Pea and Shelley Oliver's metal clad heels and toes. Delighting the onlookers their joyous tapping, shuffling, and jumping matched the intensity of the Leonhardt Trio's playing. James "Buster" Brown, who had toured with Ellington and was a member of the legendary dance ensemble The Copacetics, strolled onto the platform to add a comedic touch to the show.