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Eric Leone ~ This Is Smooth Jazz

eric-leone

Eric Leone is a professional musician whose name you might not readily recognize, but whose artistry you will instantly be drawn to the minute you hear his music.

Known for a genre of music that had phenomenal success in the 80's and 90's, Smooth Jazz paved the way for traditional and non-traditional artists to fuse Jazz, R&B and Blues sounds in an instrumental evolution for music that would help to make Pop stars out of musicians such as Chuck Mangione, Kenny G., George Benson, Pat Metheny, Jonathan Butler, Lee Ritenour, Earl Klugh, Stanley Jordan, to name just a few.

It's hard to know exactly when Smooth Jazz (or Jazz fusion) exploded onto the music scene, but many cite the 1976 album from George Benson, 'Breezin' that won him 3 Grammy's that year out of 5 nominations, including Song Of The Year for the single "This Masquerade" and is considered the gold standard of Jazz & R&B rhythms on a record that would become known as Smooth Jazz.

That only seems fitting for this feature about Eric Leone who views George Benson as one of the Smooth Jazz icons most guitarists look up to.

To those music purists, Smooth Jazz is the music that defames the true essence of Jazz, lending itself to a younger pop culture audience for appeal. But nothing could be further from the truth for those musicians who play and love this genre of music, and for the millions of fans around the world who listen to it.

Smooth Jazz music is enjoying a resurgence of listeners according to music bloggers and radio tracking, and Eric Leone plans to be a part of the renewed wave of interest in the genre he feels is a healing force for a world still reeling in a pandemic age.

I caught up with Eric recently to discuss his music career and upcoming music projects and plans.


Eric Leone

Eric Leone

eric-leone

Q&A with Eric Leone

Thanks for taking the time out to share with our readers your artistry and career Eric.

RW) I want our readers to know that me and you go all the way back to our school days growing up in Bloomfield, CT., and I don’t believe I have ever known you outside of music. That was our passion. And back then, you were a part of a musical group that consisted of your brother and two sisters. I just knew you guys were going to be the next Sylvers of DeBarge. Tell our readers the name of the band and your sibling bandmates names.

EL) Unique was the name of the band, which consisted of Laura Pritchett, Chereese Pritchett, Joseph Pritchett, Preston Maye and myself, Eric Leone Pritchett.

RW) You guys were a Pop/R&B/Funk band. Who were your musical influences as kids growing up, and how much a role did your parents play in your love for music?

EL) Our Musical influences were the Jackson’s, Sylvers, Cool & the Gang, Tina Turner, Natalie Cole, Aretha Franklin, George Benson and the Brother’s Johnson.

Both my Parents were musicians, they were our biggest influences. They both come from musical families, and when they were kids they insisted that me and my siblings learn an instrument. It was mandatory that we Practice every day at 6pm.

RW) What are some of your fondest memories of that time, doing music and playing at gigs with your family?

EL) Learning how to sing harmonies together, learning how to dance while playing our instruments, going for auditions, it was lots of laughs and exciting times. We were together as a family all the time.

eric-leone

Music is infinite, there are so many possibilities with 12 tones to create something new and fresh, therefore you can never afford to stop learning."

— Eric

RW) As the years would progress, another side of you emerged as a solo jazz guitarist. And I remember the 80’s and 90’s saw some great jazz musicians enjoy pop status success like George Benson, Herbie Hancock, Kenny G and others. What prompted you to go that route into jazz?

EL) Well, my siblings and I have gotten older. Everyone moved on in life, started families and priorities changed. I studied jazz at the Hartford Conservatory School of Music and have a great appreciation for it. Smooth jazz was just starting to explode in the 80’’s on Radio stations across the county. So I pursued being a smooth jazz artist because it gave me a chance to use my instrument as a voice to express myself. I absolutely love it.

RW) Of course it is the corporate entertainment industry that sort of dictates music brands and it seems like with the growth of hip-hop, smooth jazz became less and less popularly supported. How much of an impact would you say that shift in music impacted jazz artists?

EL) Yes, the corporate entertainment industry has impacted smooth jazz significantly. Fortunately, summer jazz concerts are still viable. There’s only specialty shows that are on terrestrial radio for an hour or so and there are not many 24/7 smooth jazz terrestrial stations left. Satellite radio is the new medium to receive 24/7 smooth jazz music. Nevertheless, it is up to the smooth jazz artist who is in it for the love, to keep the awareness alive and hopefully it will resurge.

RW) I remember seeing you open for Roy Ayers in CT. in concert and just remember thinking, wow Eric, you are on a different level now with your music. Like really pro status stuff, and then I think you released a CD and I read a review where you compared to a young Otis Redding. How humbling is that for you when you are tabbed to open for legendary performers, and compared to them artistically?

EL) Being compared to Otis Redding is very humbling. I was honored to be able to meet the standard to grace the stage of the legendary Roy Ayers. It was very exciting as well as humbling times.

eric-leone

Learn the business of music if you want the world to hear your music."

— Eric

RW) You have released how many records to date and are you working on any new music?

EL) I have released two Cd’s Eric Leone Outstanding, and Eric Leone Cruisin.

RW) Who do you like out there musically today that you would like to either perform with on stage, or do a single with?

EL) I would love to perform with the great George Benson and do a single with him. That would actually be a dream come true.

RW) What does the next 5 years look like for Eric Leone, what are some of the goals for you musically?

EL) Really looking forward to getting back to live shows, touring, and recording new music for my fans.


Thank you Eric. I know for any music lover of Smooth Jazz who were not aware of your music before now will become new followers, and we look forward to all of the new music to come.

eric-leone

Music is infinite, there are so many possibilities with 12 tones to create something new and fresh, therefore you can never afford to stop learning."

— Eric

RW) In the meantime, where can your new fans now after this article, find you on social media?

EL) You can find me At ericleonemusic.com, Facebook, Instagram twitter or just google me.

RW) I never close out these Q&A’s without asking if you were asked to speak to the graduating class of 2021 of students embarking on a career in music, what words of encouragement would you share with them?

EL) Music is infinite, there are so many possibilities with 12 tones to create something new and fresh, therefore you can never afford to stop learning. Music is powerful. music can heal people, music can make a sad person happy, and most importantly music can bring people from many different cultures together. Once you have learn the industry don’t be afraid to create and be different. Learn the business of music if you want the world to hear your music.

Thank you Eric for spending some time with us and we look forward to the new music and all of your endeavors in the near future.

Follow Eric on Social Media

Eric Leone Music

Eric's Music Channel on YouTube

eric-leone

Don’t be afraid to create and be different."

— Eric

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