Longleash accurately dubs itself "a group with a traditional instrumentation and a progressive identity." Comprising the traditional trio of violin, cello, and piano, they seek out music that redefines the possibilities of these instruments sonically.
For the most part, this has not involved what is known as extended technique. The group's name comes from that of Operation Long Leash, a U.S. Central Intelligence Agency operation mounted during the Cold War that sought to contrast American cultural freedom with Soviet repression. The artists involved were allowed considerable creative freedom. The internationalist outlook is retained in the group's repertory and commissioning decisions, which have involved composers from many countries, including Mexico, Italy, and Japan.
Longleash mounts its own summer festival, the Loretto Project, in the U.S. state of Kentucky. That festival was an outgrowth of a graduate-school concert series created by Longleash violinist Pala Garcia, who received bachelor's and master's degrees from the Juilliard School in New York and then enrolled for doctoral-level studies at the City University of New York. All three members of Longleash maintain musical connections in both the New York City area and the cities of Louisville or Cincinnati, both rich in contemporary music. Longleash's cellist is John Popham, a chamber musician and teacher based in Brooklyn who has worked with composers as diverse as Pierre Boulez and Steve Reich. The holder of a master's degree from the Manhattan School of Music, he has appeared as soloist with the Louisville Orchestra among many other ensembles, and has recorded for the Tzadik and Albany labels. Pianist and Honolulu native Renate Rohlfing won the New Orleans International Concerto Competition at 15 and went on to study at the State University of Stony Brook and to a residency at the Arnold Schoenberg Institute in Vienna. She made her debut at the Cincinnati May Festival in 2013. Longleash released its debut album, Passage, in 2017.