Born into a musical family, Michael Leonhart has developed into one of the most imaginative and prolific musicians of his time, sought throughout the music and entertainment world as a trumpeter, composer, producer, arranger, multi-instrumentalist and songwriter. At age 17, Michael was honored as the youngest Grammy recipient in history, cited as the most outstanding musician in a U.S. high school. That same year ABC World News named him "Person of the Week". He has since gone on to collaborate with artists as diverse as James Brown & Wutang Clan to Meryl Streep & Isaac Mizrahi.
As a trumpeter, Michael performed on Mark Ronson’s record breaking smash hit “Uptown Funk” featuring Bruno Mars, which won the 2016 Record of the year Grammy and the 2015 BRIT award for British Single of the Year. He has performed with Rock legends Steely Dan since 1996, recording two albums with them, including 2000's 4x Grammy winning Album of the Year "Two Against Nature" on which he was also a featured soloist, arranger and conductor. Michael played the featured trumpet solos on Baz Luhrmann’s critically acclaimed Netflix series “The Get Down” and was a regular member of the Antibalas Orchestra in Bill T. Jones’ Tony nominated “FELA” on Broadway. Michael performed on the hit song “It Ain't Fair” by The Roots & Bilal from the “Detroit” movie soundtrack and is frequently featured as a guest with Questlove and the Roots on the Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon.
Michael has composed music for stage and screen, including writing a song for and directing Meryl Streep on the Decca soundtrack album “Songs of Lahore”. Leonhart recently composed music for the score to Rockstar Games upcoming “Red Dead Redemption 2" . Michael and Paul Brill wrote the music to the Emmy nominated “Unhittable: Sidd Finch and the Tibetan Fastball”. Michael, Leon Michels and El Michels Affair co-wrote the scores to both “One: Union of the Senses” by Jose Parla and the upcoming thriller “Clover”.
Michael produced “Many A New Day: Karrin Allyson Sings Rodgers & Hammerstein” which was nominated for Vocal Jazz Album of the year at the 2016 Grammys. Donald Fagen’s long awaited fourth solo album “Sunken Condos”, was produced by Michael and Donald and released in October 2012. Nels Cline’s “Lovers” (arranged & conducted by Michael Leonhart) was released on the legendary Blue Note records in August 2016 to rave reviews. The album was premiered live at Newport Jazz 2016 with legendary festival creator George Wein in attendance. He also wrote arrangements for large brass/woodwind ensemble for David Byrne and St. Vincent’s “Love This Giant” tour.
Michael has performed and/or recorded with music legends Ringo Starr, Brian Eno, Paul Simon, Elvis Costello, Eric Clapton, Levon Helm, Yoko Ono, A Tribe Called Quest, Q-Tip, Raekwon (Wutang Clan), Henry Mancini, John Barry, Caetano Veloso, Tom Ze, Phil Collins, Randy Newman, Steve Winwood, Bill Withers, Bette Midler, Michael McDonald, Boz Scaggs, Thurston Moore and Kim Gordon (Sonic Youth), Steven Tyler (Aerosmith), Bobby McFerrin, Wynton Marsalis, Todd Rundgren and Bonnie Raitt. Michael has also worked with artists such as Sharon Jones and the Dapkings, Ronson, Alicia Keys, Lauryn Hill, Antibalas, Sean Lennon, Rufus Wainwright, Martha Wainwright, Charles Bradley and the Menahan Street Band, Joey Bada$$, Blonde Redhead, Foster the People, Mos Def, Busta Rhymes, Seu Jorge, Tedeschi Trucks Band, Phish, Cibo Matto, Lenny Kravitz, Scissor Sisters, Dirty Projectors, Aloe Blacc, Natalie Merchant, Slash (Guns and Roses/Velvet Revolver) and Jens Lekman.
As a solo artist Michael has released seven albums -- "Aardvark Poses" (1995), "Glub Glub vol. 11" (1997), and "Slow" (2002) all on the Sunnyside label; "The Suzy Lattimore EP" (2005) & "The Ballad of Minton Quigley "(2006) (self released), 2008's "Hotel Music" (St. Ives/Secretly Canadian) and 2010’s heavy-funk concept album “Seahorse and the Storyteller” (Truth and Soul Records).
“The Painted Lady Suite”, the debut album album by the Michael Leonhart Orchestra (MLO), will be released June 15thon Sunnyside Records. MLO is a genre-crossing 15-piece ensemble that has been putting on electrifying shows for the last 2 years. The orchestra performs both Leonhart’s original compositions as well as his arrangements of Wutang, Fela, Ellington, Zappa and Bernard Herrmann. MLO features players from bands such as Sharon Jones & the Dap-kings, the Mingus Big Band, Maria Schneider’s Orchestra, the Tonight Show Band (Roots) and other soloists from the NY/Brooklyn jazz/soul/studio scene.
illustration by: Michael Arthur