David Leonhardt took up piano at 8 and was playing professionally by 14. Like many teens, the young musician first gravitated to the sounds of rock 'n' roll. But by 17 - unlike most others - he was looking for something new.
"The music was very limiting," says Leonhardt, 42, recalling his early musical experiences. "You could be a real good rock musician after only a few short years. Naturally, if you want to be excellent, you've got to look for bigger challenges."
That, says Leonhardt, is when he discovered jazz. Influenced by artists such as Miles Davis and intrigued by the idea of musical improvisation, he knew right away he'd found a new love.
"The difference between jazz and a pop or classical group is that they work everything out," says Leonhardt. "It's like giving a speech...or something in a play where everybody says the same thing...A jazz performance is more like a conversation of dialogue where you might touch on certain subjects, but - depending on what the other person says - it's going to change. It's more like a conversation of musicians."
Leonhardt's musical conversations have been widespread, including recordings with Stan Getz, Slide Hampton and David "Fathead" Newman. His compositions have been recorded by acts such as the Art Blakey Big Band and the Benny Carter Orchestra.