Thursday, December 30, 2010

Health, Love, and LEEL in 2011

I just met with a natural medicine doctor tonight that gave me a new diet and health tips. One things he said to me really hit home. He told me to surround myself with people that LOVE me, are honest and want to be in HARMONY with me. And to find a companion that ADORES me and is patient, understanding, and all about resolving any issues. And to secure that adoration.

All I can say is that he hit the nail on the head... Just from him saying that, realized how I've struggled over the past years to keep some of my relationships stable or even existing. When on the other side of that my friend may not have been trying that hard or may not have cared.. And I realized how that struggle physically may have caused stress to my body and mind... Although I feel as though I let lots of that go over time and have found great people to surround myself with, I need to be more conscious of it and to completely be at peace. I feel as though I may have gotten away from the more peaceful, positive reserved Leel I used to be and I'm hoping to get back to that.

Another thing I need to be more conscious of (and the reason I went to see him) is what I put in my body. Although I THOUGHT I ate right, I still have had health problems to address. Sure, I shop at Whole Foods a lot, which is great, but it mean I shouldn't read labels to see what's in my food? Ok.. Enough of this super personal blog! Happy New Year!!!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

End of the Year 2010!

Unfortunately, I've been away from this blog for a little while and it's been really hard for me to keep up... But I'd like to say some things for the end of the year....

It's been a great year for me and I'm thankful for the opportunities I had to go on the road and record with some great musicians this year.. This year I went to LA to perform with the Dave Holland Big Band, to perform in Cali, Maryland, and N.C with Christian Mcbride, to Moscow (for the first time) with the Vitaly Golavnev group, as well as a 5 week tour with Roy Haynes that took me to Finland, Germany, Italy, France, Sweden, Norway, Copenhagen, Spain and the UK.. I also recorded with Johnathan Blake and Ben Williams for recordings that should be released this next year!

I'm also thankful for the new friends I've made on the road as well as on the scene... I'm also thankful for those that we've lost this year. Unfortunately some amazing people that I met this year have left us. Mr. Sid Simmons, Mr. James Moody, and Ms. Trudy Pitts! They will truly be missed.

For those of you that don't know who Sid Simmons was, he was a great Philadelphian pianist that's best known for his work with Grover Washington, John Blake, and Gerald Veasley. He was also known for playing in the house band at Ortliebs jazz Club, supporting all of the great jazz musicians that have come through Philadelphia. I met Sid Simmons when I was only 11 years old. All I can say is he was one of the most supportive musicians I have ever met. He was always a very peaceful guy. He loved music and he loved people. Period. He was one of the most influential musicians I met coming up in Philly. Not only because he was an amazing pianist, but he was also an amazing human being. He was great to be around and was always positive. I feel as though part of who I am today is because of who he was.

James Moody was an amazing jazz saxophonist that is best known for his "Moody's Mood for Love" (There I go, THere I go,) and for his work with the great Dizzy Gillespie. I first met Moody when I was selected to participate in the Ravinia Jazz Summer Workshop in Illinois while I was studying at Berklee. He was also very positive and really loved music. I'll never forget the first day of the saxophone workshop in Ravinia. The first thing he did when he walked in the room was to ask all the students to take out a piece of manuscript and a paper and write some lines down for him to work on! LOL! He was always studying, and was willing to learn from anyone. That was one of the best lessons I've ever learned.

The Amazing Trudy Pitts was a great Jazz Organist from Philadelphia that was best known for her work with jazz guitarist Pat Martino. She's also recorded 4 records for Prestige records -

1967: Introducing the Fabulous Trudy Pitts (Prestige) with Pat Martino
1967: These Blues are Mine (Prestige)
1968: Bucket Full of Soul (Prestige)
1968: Excitement (Prestige)

Trudy was also very supportive and always gave very great advice. I think I rarely ever saw her without her husband. William Carney. I know he misses her truly.

I think I've learned a lot about love and humility from these people. The one thing I sometimes notice about musicians is humility is sometimes hard for some of us to address or attain. Sometimes the ego gets in the way.. or jealousy. And I've noticed how it can make it hard for some to actually love or enjoy the people. Some become less social or their ego gets so huge that they began to think they're above others.... And sometimes even their music or creative development suffers. And with this the Love for the music dies... I've also learned that Love, when it's real, is unconditional. It's real. We find it in the parent/s that raised us, and was there now just as they were when we were children. They call everyday to make sure we're ok and worry when they don't hear from you. We also find it in that friend that is always there for you and will have your back no matter what... without question. We also find it in the people that we may not see that often, but when we do, there's that sense of warmth and positivity that always lifts our spirits. And the feeling that time hasn't passed at all since you last saw that person. From these musicians, I've learned that it's so much more about what comes out of your heart, your real heart... Your honesty and sincerity as an individual, than what comes out of your instrument. It all comes down to Love in the end. The people can usually tell....

Trudy Pitts, James Moody, and Sid Simmons all had so much love that there was no time for ego or jealousy. They were all about helping people, teaching, supporting and learning from people. To quote Mr. Moody - ‎"Nobody else in this world is no better than me, and I'm no better than anyone else". I am just so thankful to have learned from these people. And I wish so many more had that opportunity to do so. They will all stay in my heart for ever.

Lastly, I wasn't able to record my 3rd CD this year. I'm kinda back at square one with it and now may be on to another project all together. I'll keep you posted. In the meantime, I'd like to wish you all Happy Holidays!! See you next year!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Dave Holland in LA & Roy Haynes in Japan

So I've been late with updates... It's been hard for me to keep up, but I'm giving it a try... So what's new?? In the end of July I did another gig with Dave Holland at the Hollywood bowl. It was my first time playing at the Bowl and the night was a big band show that also featured the Dave Douglas and Count Basie Big bands. Since I'd never been at the Hollywood bowl before, I had no idea it was such a huge venue. We got out on the stage to find the audience was packed, which was a shock for me. So there ARE people that like jazz??? LOL! Anyway, as always, I had a great time performing with Mr. Holland and the big band. The music is always killing and there's just a great vibe in that band. One of the highlights for me was the fact that the Hollywood bowl has a revolving stage AND a timer.. So when the time is up on your performance, the stage starts to turn. Dave must've timed the show perfectly because we literally ended RIGHT when the clock ran out... It was hilarious!

So, what else.....? Well, last month I went to Japan (one of my favorite places to go in the world!!) with Roy Haynes and I have to say it was short, but as always I had a good time. Only thing is, it was in the 90's out there EVERYDAY, and the humidity was about 80% ( I never realized it's usually not higher than 40% in NY), so it was hard to hang out. The other thing that made it hard to hang out during the day was the fact that it was a Japanese holiday (Obon) and the club pushed the shows up to 4pm and 7pm. I did get to have some of my favorite sushi in Tsukiji, Curry around the corner from the hotel, and Okonamiyaki in Shinjuku! I also had a fun hang in Roppongi and Shibuya during the nights I could stay awake!

I must say, Roy was in rare form in Japan! I've seen him dance on the stage before, but this week was different. This time he danced in a tap dance fashion for a little while, scatted on a blues, and we even got into some funk. The audience loved it and we had a good time. It was also great to see so many of my good friends out there. I realize that I have so many friends in Japan from my Berklee days. Good times...

So what else... The Charlie Parker Festival.. I played with the Revive the Live group this year, performing a tribute to Bird. That show went over well and we all had a great time. The band included Igmar Thomas, Marcus Strickland, Corey King, and myself on the front line and Marc Cary, Ben Williams, and Justin Brown in the rhythm section. Raydar Ellis was the DJ and MC for the performance.

Also, I went to the Michael Jackson Party in Harlem this year.. It's an annual party hosted by Spike Lee that basically went from 12 - 5pm. Unfortunately, I got there at 3pm, but in enough time to hear some great music and hear Snoop Dawg do a special guest performance. It was a lot of fun. And I'm really digging the MJ Tshirt I purchased as well...

Well, I have more I'll try to catch you up on... I'll try to do that a little later.. - LEEEEEEEEL

Monday, July 05, 2010

The Essence Music Festival... (Jazz, Rock....?)

I was going through my facebook page the other day and noticed a friend of mines page and noticed her freshly updated pictures from the Essence Music Festival. I decided to go to the page and check out who was performing there... As I went through the roster of artists this year, I saw some great acts - Mary J. Blige, Jill Scott, Alicia Keys, De La Soul.... And I started to think about all the many other genres of music that I would've liked to see on this list.. (of course jazz was on it)... And it made me wonder why jazz music isn't popular in the African American culture.. Ok.. I did see some New Orleans artist on the list.. And there were some great names there... But I wondered why there were only jazz groups from New Orleans at the festival? Was it because the were FROM New Orleans and may not have cost as much since they were already home?

I guess this is a question I ask myself over and over again. As much as I love playing to ANY audience that appreciates my music, there are times when I look out in the audience and ask myself what has happened to the black community when it comes to Jazz music. Why don't more African Americans know about this music?

When I look back at my days in middle school and high school, I realize that I didn't really learn much about my history as an African American. Period. If I did, it was from my mother or people outside of school. And most of that was simply based on the fact that I was studying this music called Jazz and had dreams of becoming of musician from an early age...

I guess my hope is that this music and many other genres of music reach the people. There are a bunch of young jazz musicians that I think need to be heard.. There are also artist from other genres like J*Davey, Muhsinah, and Georgia Ann Muldrow that I think are coming up with some fresh new concepts as well... Sometimes I wish I could take over one of these popular music stations and expose people to some of the great music that's out here...

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

JazzInside Interview!

I have a feature interview in the June issue JazzInside Magazine...

Please visit

to download it...

For those of you that would like to have a copy of the magazine, it's available in most jazz clubs in NYC!

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Roy Haynes 85th Anniversary Tour!

For those of you that don't know, I just got back from a 5 week tour with the great Roy Haynes! It's been a while since I've been out for such a long tour, but I have to say I had a great time! In those 5 weeks we traveled to Finland, Germany, Spain, Italy, France, the UK, Sweden, Copenhagen, Norway, and Denmark.

I must say Mr. Haynes is Amazing! He had way more energy than I did the whole tour. There were a few one nighters in Spain that were basically late night gigs and early lobby calls. Roy would be perfectly fine every morning, literally whistling as he came down stairs! Meanwhile the rest of us would barely be able to move. He also has a great sense of humor, which really came out when we got to London. While at Ronnie Scott's, Roy tested out some of his jokes on the crowd during one of the sets and had the audience as well as the band rolling..

The downside of the tour was that both of my horns started acting up. This could have been due to the fact that I was playing hard almost every day, or the fact that I was flying almost everyday and the horns were moving around a lot. Initially it was just the soprano, which I thought was leaking, so I took it to a shop called "Sax Machine" in Paris. They fixed it up, but two days later, before a gig in Brighton, I drop it.. So I have to take it to a shop in London. And they fix it up again.. So I'm thinking everything's cool and while I'm playing my alto that night at Ronnie's, the High D spring breaks... So now I have to go get my alto fixed! LOL! It was a mess to say the least. I think I need to get my repair chops up and start bringing some emergency tools and supplies with me for the next trip!

Overall, we had a great tour. I met many new friends and got to see some old friends I hadn't seen in ages. I have to say I've grown accustomed to London, even though the Pound is killing the Dollar. London is a pretty cool place.. Copenhagen was pretty cool too. I didn't get to see too much of it, but one thing that caught my eye was the fact that so many people over there ride bikes. Sometimes it looked like more people rode bikes than drove cars. Unfortunately, most of those people didn't wear helmets... Last but not least is Paris! Unfortunately, after having been there maybe 7 or 8 times I think I've come to the conclusion that I may not like French food... But I really enjoy Paris and hope I get to find more places to hang outside of the jazz clubs I usually frequent out there... What's next? My trio will be performing tomorrow night at the Bar Next Door and then I'm off to Moscow with the Vitaly Golanev Group this weekend!

Friday, March 26, 2010


I just ran into my friend and his kids, who he'd just bought new toys. They looked SUPER excited and happy and it made me remember the days when I used to get so excited when I got new toys or gifts. Then I started to think that that never really changes in life.. We all like having/getting/doing new things in life and It's important to keep trying to do/find things in life to keep you happy/excited EVERYDAY..

Thursday, March 25, 2010


I guess I'm not too good at this... Posting... It's been almost a year already... Pretty crazy. First off, I can say I actually have a long post that I kind of abandoned that was based on a status that I put on my facebook page near the end of the year last year. I basically said "I don't care if it's old school or new school as long as it's honest and sounds good. And if it's Jazz, it should have elements of Blues and Swing". What a commotion I caused with that! I tried to write a blog on it, but realized that there's so much to say and I have so many different thoughts on the Jazz world today. And why the words BLUES and SWING may scare the crap out of people that play so called jazz music today. Anyway.. Maybe I'll post that soon...

Anyways, life has been pretty cool over here. Since my last post I've done a bunch of traveling with Roy Haynes to Japan, France, Germany, Israel... I'm trying to think of the other places we hit in Europe last summer, but I can't now. Israel was interesting. It wasn't easy for me to get in to the country based on the fact that I have an Arabic name. Although I was born and raised Christian, upon entering Israel I was asked by a customs agent who named me. When I told him it was by my Uncle who was studying Islam at the time, I was taken into a room and interrogated for a while. The thing that disturbed me was the other people in the room were all muslims... Talk about profiling.. I guess the situation over there is a lot deeper than I thought it was. All that said, I had a great time there.. Especially on the beach.

Other highlights of the Fall included two performances with the Dave Holland Big Band and Octet in Chicago and Tanglewood, a performance with Christian Mcbride in Philadelphia, and an end of the year performance with the Roy Haynes Quartet at Birdland celebrating the clubs 60th anniversary. The first day was an invitation only party the included MANY legends of so called Jazz... All I can say is I walked out on the stage to see Hank Jones, Grady Tate, Lou Donaldson, Jimmy Heath, and Frank Wess in the front row alone. Lee Konitz, Paquito D'rivera, and Louis Hayes were also in the audience.. So needless to say, I was a bit nervous. I tried my best to be cool and kept my eyes on the picture in the back of the room the whole night! It was a great experience all in all and I got to talk to Lou Donaldson, who was very cool and told me he really enjoyed the performance.... Having read his latest Jazztimes before and after, I was relieved!

Well, I'm just getting back from a gig with the Gregg August Sextet and have a long day a head of me tomorrow. So I'm gonna split for now... Hopefully I'll have a more up to date post soon. - LEEL