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Award-Winning Vocalist RONNIE LEIGH with The Jeff Phillips Quartet
March 10 @ 8:00 pm - 11:00 pm
Jazz In The City’s founder and artistic director, Ronnie Leigh, has been impressing audiences for years from Syracuse to Seattle, and from New York City to Istanbul, giving the bands he has performed with leadership and a distinctive flare.
This Albany, New York native and five-time SAMMY (Syracuse Area Music Award) winner has recorded with Cabo Frio on Zebra/MCA records; and with Larry Arlotta on Spirit Jazz. Though primarily a jazz interpreter, he has a variety of musical interests and recently released a debut album on Eiffel Records with his own band, Prime Time Funk.
As a frequent performer in resorts, jazz clubs, and concert halls throughout the country, Canada and the Syracuse Jazz Festival, Ronnie Leigh has shared the stage with The Drifters, Pat Metheny, The Yellowjackets, David Benoit, Special EFX, Spyro Gyra, David Sanborn, Tom Scott, Etta Jones and Jon Hendricks, as well as the Syracuse Symphony Orchestra.
His television work includes a program in the locally-based PBS series All American Jazz, serving as a host for the Big Broadcast (live from the Landmark Theater) as well as commercials for the New York State Fair, Syracuse Heart of New York, Hometown Hunger Relief Fund, the Sam Dell Group and C.S.E.A. (Civil Service Employees Association).
Larry Hoyt of WAER Jazz 88 says, “Ronnie Leigh has a smooth, mellow, and multifaceted voice. Whether singing with the Syracuse Symphony or scatting with a small combo, he’s a vocalist with plenty of presence.”
Frank Malfitano, founder and director of the Syracuse Jazz Fest remarks, “Ronnie has never failed to delight audiences whenever he performs. His range, stage presence, engaging style and his love for the music always comes across, whether he’s interpreting MONK, Carmen McRae, Al Jarreau or DUKE. The man’s sensational! In my estimation, he’s one of the finest song stylists working in jazz today.”
Jeff Phillips began taking organ lessons when he was only six, but for some reason, good organ teachers were hard to find at the time in Naples, Florida, where he was growing up. After receiving only 18 months of instruction in six years, Jeff gave up on private organ lessons when he was 12.
Meanwhile, however, he had become interested in big band music and taught himself many standard songs by playing along with records (mostly 78 rpm) that his grandparents had collected. By the time he was 15, Jeff was playing organ in a trio. He also played tuba in high school and college, and later at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida.
In his late teens, Jeff became interested in Dixieland music and started learning as many tunes from that genre as he could (mostly through jam sessions with older musicians), as well as the popular music of his teenage years. He got hooked on jazz piano in 1983, after he chanced to hear both Oscar Peterson and Erroll Garner in recording sessions on the same day. “That’s when I walked away from the organ and went after the piano,” Jeff says.
Since then, he has perfected a combination of organ and piano techniques on the organ, playing bass pedals with his feet and keyboard with his hands, in effect becoming two-thirds of a rhythm section (a very marketable skill, according to Jeff).
Beginning in 1983, Jeff played, first as a student for two years then for eight more years after that, in the jazz band at Edison Community College in Fort Myers, Florida. That experience provided opportunities to work with such notable jazz musicians as Clark Terry, Buddy DeFranco, Bob Mintzer and Louis Bellson. During part of that time, Jeff was also an assistant band director at a high school in Naples, where he worked with jazz, symphonic and marching bands.
In 1996, he moved to the Orlando area where he completed an undergraduate degree in music education and tuba performance while working part-time at Walt Disney World. From 1996 to 2001, he played tuba or keyboard in seven different Disney groups, including the Rhythm Rascals with Bill Allred and the Hollywood Hit Men with Bob Pickwood.
Jeff’s first job with the BACJB was in 1997 at Disney’s Pleasure Island Jazz Company, and he played his first festival with the band two years later. Since then, he has appeared with them at many more festivals and concerts, and worked numerous corporate gigs with Bill Allred as well. He also can be heard on 10 cuts on the band’s three most-recent albums. In addition to playing with the Classic Jazz Band, Jeff is in demand as a jazz band clinician and adjudicator, and as a vocal accompanist.