Photo by Steve DePena.
It was a private event venue….people were crammed in with their backs towards the stage. The bar was crowded, people shouted over the den of the endless chatter. Although ambient music played in the background, the music was sterile. it seemed to zone out the crowd. The next band jumped up on stage….Kat & the Jazz Birds were announced. The crowd ignored the MC, pushing towards the bar and once again turning from the stage.
A sole husky voice could be heard, then the band joined her. The vibe grew stronger, some of the crowd turned to see who it was. The front woman, Kat was small in stature, but stood strong with her feet planted, her arms were in the air. She was honest and raw and her voice was thick with vibrato and soul. The sax player followed her vocal line and danced with the melody as she riffed throughout the song. It was an old jazz tune. The rhythm grew stronger and soon the crowd took more notice. Kat definitely had a way of taking charge. By the end of the first song, she owned that crowd.
The next tune was an old classic but it was an original rendition of Stormy Weather. Strong yet soft and melancholy. Throughout the rest of the set the audience was addicted. The sound of the noisy crowd nearly dropped to a small smattering of talking. They were glued on her every word….erupting in frantic applause after each song. She scatted back and forth with the band, and mesmerized the crowd. She riled them up and then brought them back down. It was quite amazing. Kat & the Jazz Birds only played for an hour or so. Another mediocre band took to the stage and volume of the crowd went back up to a medium roar.
I found out later that Kat of Kat & the Jazz Birds' full name was Kathy Leonardo. She has toured with Broadway shows and is also a singer/songwriter, blues singer and more. She stood just about 5' tall and had boundless energy. It was almost shocking to hear such a sultry and huge voice come out of such a tiny person.