No one will accuse Arlee Leonard of being a member of jazz's laid-back cool school. A big-voiced hard bop/soul-jazz belter, Leonard has favored a full-bodied, passionate, gutsy style of singing. While the queens of the cool school -- Helen O'Connell, Chris Connor, Julie London, June Christy, Helen Merrill, Claire Martin, among others -- are known for their use of subtlety, restraint, and understatement, Leonard is just the opposite. She is an aggressive and robust singer whose influences (either direct or indirect) range from Dianne Reeves to Carmen McRae, Sarah Vaughan, and Ella Fitzgerald. Other singers Leonard has been compared to include Dee Dee Bridgewater, Marlena Shaw, Abbey Lincoln, and Nneena Freelon.
Arlee started performing in coffee houses and clubs in Detroit with her musician parents, underground icons and acclaimed blues/folk duo "DAVID & ROSELYN," who make their home in New Orleans. In 1991, she toured with her family's group in Germany, France, Holland and Switzerland, and they play together almost annually at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival.
Leonard is not a jazz snob; she is primarily a jazz singer, but she is a jazz singer who has been influenced by R&B (classic soul more than high-tech urban contemporary), blues, and gospel. Though Leonard now lives in New York, the improviser was born in Oakland, CA, and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area. Leonard (who has a four octave range and does her share of wordless scatting) started singing blues, jazz, and R&B as a child, and when she reached adulthood, the Northern Californian studied singing, dancing, and acting at the University of California at Santa Cruz. Sociology, however, was Leonard's major -- she studied the arts on the side -- and the singer graduated from UC Santa Cruz with a B.A. in that field. But having a sociology degree didn't prevent Leonard from wanting to pursue a career as a jazz singer. So, in 1996, she moved to New York, where she has since worked with trumpeter Marcus Printup and tenor saxophonist Don Braden. It was also in 1996 that she started working on her debut album, Wild Honey. Leonard finished recording the CD in 1999, and the following year, she released Wild Honey independently on her own label, Soulajazz Productions.
CURRENTLY, Ms Leonard travels around the world leading combos, receiving praise from critics and audiences worldwide for her CD “Wild Honey” and live performances. Recent engagements have been in Singapore, Thailand, Russia, France, China, Canada, the Philippines, Japan, Taiwan, Dubai, U.A.E., Spain, and across the U.S.A. She works frequently in New York and New Orleans when in the U.S., including renowned jazz venues SNUG HARBOR, Sweet Lorraine's, Funky Butt (New Orleans), and SWEET RHYTHM, Birdland, Lenox Lounge, Blue Note, BAMCafe, Brooklyn Public Library, Pace University, New York University, and many more.
Arlee has performed for the INTERNATIONAL ASSOCIATION FOR JAZZ EDUCATION conference in Toronto, the JVC JAZZ FESTIVAL, WOMEN IN MUSIC FESTIVAL, INTERNATIONAL WOMEN IN JAZZ FESTIVAL in New York, THE NEW ORLEANS JAZZ & HERITAGE FESTIVAL, and many more festivals and concerts around the globe.
One of the most fulfilling things Arlee does when she’s not singing in concert halls or clubs is to sing at her church homes, Sacred Center New York and Agape Center of Truth (when I visit Los Angeles). She always feel that she’s ministering with her music, bringing positivity and awareness through her song choices and by letting her spirit shine. The result being that she reminds others they can do the same! But when she sings in a space where everyone is there to consciously celebrate spirit, it lifts her to a whole different place.
Arlee enjoys putting pen to paper almost as much as she loves singing. She has many more lyrics and poems than she will ever set to music, but she'd love to publish many of them someday. Arlee’s a traveling woman, and a seeker of her truth, with lots of stories to tell! In the past she’s also expressed herself on stage as a dancer, an actress, and done industrial and commercial film and television work. She’s hosted a radio program and done live television. She’s toured all over the world, sung for and with Ambassadors, and performed music with little kids in New York. Little ones expressing themselves through music is truly a gift to behold!!
Two things especially important to Arlee are her parents, musicians David & Roselyn, and the recovery of New Orleans. She gives thanks for all the wonderful musical adventures she’s had in her life, and is looking forward to a whole lot more!
Just recently Arlee returned from a tour in Marsaille, France and is preparing for the 2009 Women In Jazz Festival in New York on April 24th where she will be in performance at 8pm St. Peter's Church 619 Lexington Ave. @ 54th St. and then she'll be heading down to The New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival which takes place April 24 - 26 and April 30 - May 3, 2009
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Clay Corley Sr.
My name is Clayton E. Corley, Sr. aka Big Trigger host and producer of an award winning internet program!