Carl Sonny Leyland
Boogie-woogie piano master Carl Sonny Leyland is regarded highly by critics and considered to be one of the top attractions at jazz and blues festivals. He has played with Louisiana Red, Champion Jack Dupree, Lowell Fulsom, Kim Wilson, James Cotton, Ruth Brown, and Chuck Berry among many, many others.
Leyland was born and raised on the South Coast of England, growing up close to the city of Southampton. As a child he was drawn to the American music which he heard on LP records his father would play. It was here that he developed an appreciation for Dixieland jazz, the rock & roll of the 1950s & the country music of Jimmie Rodgers & Hank Williams.
At age 15 Leyland discovered boogie-woogie when he heard a school friend working through a written arrangement of a tune called JD’s Boogie Woogie (Marvin Wright). Captivated by the sound of the repeating 8 to the bar left hand pattern, Leyland was inspired to go to the piano & begin on a path that would become his life’s purpose. Within 3 months he would be performing in public & shortly after would become a member of a respected local group “The Bob Pearce Blues Band.”
Initially influenced by boogie-woogie greats Albert Ammons, Pete Johnson & Meade ‘Lux’ Lewis, Leyland went on to fully explore the piano blues genre, becoming an authority on early & obscure styles such as those played by Cow Cow Davenport, Little Brother Montgomery, Montana Taylor & Speckled Red to name a few.
In 1988 Leyland had the opportunity to come to the USA. This initial visit to New Orleans inspired him to relocate to that city where he would spend the next nine years. During that time he was active on the club scene, quickly gaining a reputation for his authentic blues & early rock & roll stylings. Also, he toured with the Dallas based band Anson Funderburgh & the Rockets whose line-up included blues great Sam Myers.
In 1997, feeling the need for a change, Leyland relocated to Southern California. He joined Big Sandy & His Flyrite Boys, the well known rockabilly & western swing group & toured with them for over three years. By this time his repertoire had expanded to include ragtime & early jazz styles which enabled him to become part of the traditional jazz scene around Los Angeles & San Diego. In June of 2003 the Carl Sonny Leyland Trio was formed with drummer Hal Smith & bassist Marty Eggers.
Leyland’s playing displays an infectious spontaneity, providing plenty of surprises for the listener. While he possesses the necessary vocabulary to pay tribute to the greats of old, he refuses to be limit himself to this & prefers to let each performance be an opportunity to say something new.
Carl Sonny Leyland will appear as a featured guest with Rod Piazza at the 2018 Bowlful of Blues. See https://carlsonnyleyland.com to learn more about him.