CARL SONNY LEYLAND
Born 1965, Southampton, England
Carl Sonny Leyland is an English-born pianist / singer who has been living in the USA since 1988. Starting out as a boogie woogie pianist, he has gradually broadened his scope which now also encompasses rock 'n' roll, blues, R & B, New Orleans jazz, ragtime and stride. Unlike many other boogie pianists with vocal aspirations (especially those from the German-speaking countries), Leyland really can sing. For a white guy, he is no mean blues shouter. His early albums were mostly instrumental, with one or two vocal tracks. Gradually, it became the other way around.
At the age of fifteen, Carl heard a recording by Jimmy Dorsey's band called "J.D.'s Boogie Woogie", which was based on Pinetop's Smith's classic "Boogie Woogie". He taught himself to play the number on piano and from that time on began to dig deeper into boogie. His father, who played drums, introduced him to the Boogie Woogie Trio (Albert Ammons, Pete Johnson, Meade Lux Lewis) and these three giants of boogie woogie, along with Jimmy Yancey, became a big influence on his piano style. A later major influence is Jerry Lee Lewis. Carl became a sideman in a well-known blues band in his home town of Southampton. By his early twenties he had become one of the top young boogie pianists in Europe and appeared at the first of many "Les Nuits Jazz et Boogie Woogie" in Paris, as well as at several concerts in Norway and Germany.
In 1988 he relocated to New Orleans, where most of his work was in bars like "Seven / Eleven", but he has also successfully toured parts of the USA with the Dallas-based blues band Anson Funderburgh and the Rockets. After a trip out west in 1995, Leyland moved to Ventura and finally to Orange, California, where he now lives with his wife Rachel. Apart from his piano and vocal work, he has become a prolific songwriter (the BMI database lists 61 compositions under his name). Many boogie woogie pianists are content to record the 837th version of "Honky Tonk Train Blues" or "Boogie Woogie Stomp", but not Carl (though he's also done some of the classics), who prefers to write his own material. On the CD "They Call Me the Boogie Woogie Man" (also released under the title "Witches' Kitchen"), eleven of the twelve tracks are Leyland compositions. This is possibly his finest album, with plenty of variety. Also, he contributed to the soundtacks of the feature films "The Pelican Brief", "A Perfect World" and "The Newton Boys". Meanwhile, he continues to be in demand in Europe, where he still tours occasionally. He has appeared as a guest artist on over two dozen records. Particularly impressive is his piano playing behind Deke Dickerson on the CD's "Number One Hit Record" (Deke and Carl outshine Jerry Lee on "Mexicali Rose"! ), "Rhythm, Rhyme and Truth" and "In 3 Dimensions". Carl has also played on recordings by the rockabilly group Big Sandy and his Fly-Rite Boys.
More info at http://www.pacificblues.com/html/cbe/sonny.htm which sums up his achievements as follows: "Appearing as a solo act, trio, or band, Carl's deep knowledge of the music, his astonishing technique and mastery of the piano, and his soulful and expressive singing will not soon be forgotten by anyone who hears and sees him, and he is a rare and exciting addition to any club, festival, or special event. Truly the mark of an artist and virtuoso, Carl seamlessly combines his own originals and the gems of yesteryear into his own rhythmically driving musical joyride through American roots music."
I hope this doesn't read too much as an advertisement. The man really is good and deserves to be better known. Now Dig This doesn't even review his CD's, whereas every new Collector release gets plenty of space, no matter how bad it is.
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