Harlan Leonard Biography

American jazz clarinetist, saxophonist (alto, tenor and soprano), composer and bandleader.

Born : July 02, 1905 in Kansas City, Missouri.

Died : November 10, 1983 in Los Angeles, California.



A professional musician from the age of 17, he joined Bennie Moten's orchestra in 1923, where he led the reed section until 1931.



In 1931, after Moten sucessfully hired a crew of new musicians (formerly konwn as "The Blue Devils"), Harlan Leonard and Thamon Hayes left the band. They soon formed the twelve-piece Kansas City Skyrockets, which included trumpeter Ed Lewis, trombonist Vic Dickenson, and pianist Jesse Stone (2). The band was successful, but broke up in 1934 after disputes with the Chicago local of the American Federation of Musicians.



Leonard then formed a new band, Harlan Leonard and his Rockets, a 14-piece orchestra (with Henry Bridges on tenor saxophone and Fred Beckett on trombone) that made the link between the Swing and Bop eras. Charlie Parker played in this band for five weeks, but was fired by Leonard for lack of discipline. The band broke up during the Second World War, and Leonard, in disgust, left professional music to work for the IRS on the West Coast.


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