Of the many guest musicians that have traveled to Eastern New Mexico University throughout the years, ENMU’s music faculty is excited to bring saxophonist Brad Leali to Portales this
week to work with its students for ENMU’s Jazzfest.
Leali, a native of Denver and a professor of jazz saxophone at University of North Texas, has performed with a plethora of major stars, including Stevie Wonder, Harry Connick Jr., Kid Rock and Mary J. Blige, according to his biography. Leali also performed at President Barack Obama’s inaugural celebration.
The work that Leali and ENMU’s music faculty and students will put in during Thursday and Friday through a series of workshops will be showcased in the evenings for the public.
Leali said he grew up in a house filled with music. As a child, he was attracted to the saxophone he found in his home that his father once played. While thumbing through his father’s old yearbook, he found a photo of his father in band, all the members dressed in suits.
That same day he told his father he wanted to play saxophone and the rest is history, Leali said.
Of all the famous names you’ve had the opportunity to play with, what’s one memory that has stuck with you?
All of the people who I have worked with, big names or not, the musicians have all inspired me in certain ways. I remember Joe Williams, the vocalist for the Count Basie orchestra, walking with him through Japan and going to all these clubs where he used to sing in the (1960s) and seeing all his pictures on the walls. Another one would be my first big gig, which was with Harry Connick Jr. My rehearsal with that band was pretty amazing. I graduated a day earlier; that was the beginning of a new life for me. I had played in clubs while in school but this was my first time to be on the big stage.
What instrument would you want to learn to play?
I’d love to learn how to play drums better than I do. I’m not good, not good at all.
What do you hope to bring to the students of ENMU?
I hope that I’m able to inspire them more about music and kind of let them know that they’re on the right track if it’s something that they love. It is certainly possible to do something you love and make a living out of it. I want to inspire them to be great musicians and be great people.
What artist, dead or alive, would you like to play with?
I’d love to be there with Charlie Parker, Louis Armstrong, Miles Davis, Michael Jackson. Artists that are alive, Prince; I’d like to be his main saxophone player. I’d like to play with Jay-Z, Ron Carter and Chick Corea, a great piano player.
What do you think is missing from the jazz scene today?
I think we’re missing a younger audience. That’s the biggest thing. In general terms, we’re missing the kind of natural learning process. I think a lot of the younger students want to sound like they’re experienced. They want to sound like a mature, experienced artist when they’ve only been playing five years. It doesn’t happen like that. Music is just like life, things take time. We have this sense of immediacy. We can be a star in the public’s eye but not be an accomplished musician. It takes practice and dedication and patience. It takes consistency.
— Compiled by PNT senior writer