Jennifer Leonhardt (pronounced 'len-hart', born Jennifer Gilmartin August 17, 1965 in Fort Worth, Texas) is an American singer-songwriter. Influenced by the political climate of 1970s' Washington DC growing up in a cross section of Puerto Rican, African American and Israeli communities, her songs blend early folk and soul, blues and bluegrass, rock, country, early jazz, gospel, R&B and funk. She is most frequently compared to the singer-songwriters of the 1960s, her live acoustic performances recalling influences from Bob Dylan, Sandy Denny and Kris Kristofferson to Patti Smith and Johnny Cash.
The middle of three children born to an economist and a ballerina, Jennifer is a fifth generation Texan and a great-niece of Texas' New Deal governor James Allred. Her family moved from Texas to DC in 1966; at seven she began studying classical violin attending the Washington Waldorf School, singing and playing in living room jams at home with an eclectic mix of extended family who came to stay, musicians including her maternal grandmother Katherine Jeanne Harris, host of her own variety show on Ft Worth television in the late 1950s-60s. Learning literally hundreds of traditional, folk, gospel songs and spirituals from a young age, in varying styles of music from jugband to ragtime and honky tonk, she started early creating vocal stylings that took standard recognizable forms into new territory reinventing traditional songs. In 1976 the family moved to a small town in New Hampshire an hour outside Boston where she attended high school, and traded violin for piano and guitar, teaching herself both instruments.
Emancipated at 17, she attended California Institute of the Arts outside Los Angeles, but left after a year to study speech and drama with Peter and Barbara Bridgmont at the Chrysalis Theatre School in Balham, London. Peripherally involved in the 80s post-punk music scene and touring plays with the theatre, she met her future husband there and moved back to the US where their daughter was born. Moving nineteen times in ten years, living in both the US and Europe, she raised her daughter playing standards from the Big Band era and early R&B in New York and Philadelphia jazz clubs and blues bars, performing her own songs only after meeting singer-songwriter Mark Curry in Los Angeles in 2004 who compared her performances to June Carter Cash and Peggy Lee and asked her to open for his band at the Lingerie Club in Hollywood.
Touring backed by a changing lineup of musicians and singers included festival stages at the Cutting Edge Roots Music Festival in New Orleans and South Padre International Music Festival. After three prior releases on her own Grassroots Records label out of Austin, Texas she released a fourth Gods & Nations in 2007, a full-length studio recording produced by Marc Copely and Matt Brown (of Trespassers William), including Seattle session musicians Keith Lowe on bass, Chris Stromquist (of Kulture Shock) on drums and Orville Johnson on dobro. Her songs have been included on several compilations (see Other Contributions below). In 2009 she signed with Waterbug Records, an independent artist's co-operative label out of Chicago, for the release of her fifth album, Minstrel's Daughter, dedicating the recording to her parent's musical influence.
Leonhardt's music blends many genres of American music, including folk, soul, gospel, country, rock, blues, and R&B, and is known for her harmonies and a wide vocal range, and an ability to improvise in live performance.
Articles, etcFolk and Acoustic Music Exchange review of Minstrel's DaughterSepiachord Magazine album review by Jordan Block"Minstrel's Daughter review: Experiments from an Austin kitchen" by John Hawes CD review Rootsville Magazine (Belgium) August 2, 2009 by SMP."Jenny & the Whalers on South Padre" Coastal Current Weekly cover October 23, 2008 Jennifer Leonhardt Gods & Nations album review 1340 Mag December 20, 2007 by David Baker.
United State of Americana Vol 4 by Shuteye Records (2006)-"Gentlemen's Bet"Pop Culture Press CD Sampler(2008)-"Patron"Texas Music Magazine sampler