LEON & THE PEOPLES Rock JazzAspen Fest
'The Peoples' Reggae at the Aspen Jazz Fest Posted: 9/8/11 03:35 PM ET
ASPEN - A sellout crowd on Sunday at Jazz Aspen Snowmass Labor Day weekend festival saw sunny weather and vibrant live music that had 11,000 people on their feet dancing and celebrating the holiday.
One band, Leon and the Peoples, was a welcome surprise to the already happy fans of Michael Franti and Zac Brown as they packed the dance floor with fans from across the country. Leon and the Peoples, a 2007 International Reggae and World Music Award (IRAWMA) nominee and one New York City's hottest rising bands has successfully completed their first North America Tour, in front of other sold-out venues including House of Blues, Hard Rock Live, The Docks in Toronto, BB Kings, NYC, The Roxy in Boston and this Sunday, in the Aspen Valley.
Leon and the Peoples, that is, Leon and his band of seven musicians, smiled and waved as the crowd grew more and more dense with energy rising and audience singing and shouting for more.
First thing I noticed was the involvement Leon had with his audience. By the end of his third song, he had the entire stage filled with cheering festival-goers, some who appeared to be self-appointed go-go dancers. Others, just happy to have such good, live soul music in the house.
One member of the audience, New Orleans native Bridget Balentine, who has lived in the valley for decades with her husband, deputy fire chief Rick Balentine, danced and swayed to the music with a smile on her face. She is no stranger to live soul music either. She returns to her native Jazz Fest and Mardi Gras every year during breaks from the Balentine Collection business. When I asked her about the show, Bridget said "this is great -- real earthy energy. You can feel the soul coming through."
The day after the show, chilling by the river in Woody Creek, I asked Leon for his take on the festival. "It's a very well run festival and I was impressed -- impressed with the stage and the entire grounds. People had fun. At a festival, you've got to be free to do what you want. It was very diverse."
Also, why was he so adamant about having access to his audience? It turns out that Leon happens to be a professional actor as well (30 hours away from a plane to start rehearsals of his new play debuting in Washington DC, titled Why Do Good Girl Like Bad Boys).
"One thing about me, " Leon said "spending so many years as an actor, going to so many concerts, I always wondered what I would want to see. I thought I'd like to see more interaction with the crowd, let them know that I'm singing with them,."Indeed"
Multitalented actor Leon, best known for his starring roles in The Temptations, The Five Heartbeats, Cool Runnings and The Little Richard Story will get a chance to showcase his musical chops when he and the Peoples Band join reggae legend Beres Hammond and veteran singer Marcia Griffiths (Electric Slide) on their "For The Love Of It" North American tour.
The 27-city, eight-week tour, which kicks off on January 3, 2007 at the Independent in San Francisco, California will crisscross the USA, making stops in Colorado, Chicago, Albany, Hartford and New York before the grand finale at the Hard Rock Cafe, Orlando, Florida.
"This is a great opportunity for us to be touring with reggae stalwart Beres Hammond. Beres has had such a long and distinguished career in the industry and is such a great performer. He is one of the best singer/songwriters and my personal favorite" Leon was quoted as saying.
"We plan on learning a great deal from him and are grateful for the opportunity."
Leon is no stranger to Jamaica. He is a frequent visitor and contributor to the island and refers to it as his "backyard." He has been a fixture on the New York reggae circuit for a long time hosting numerous events for the Jamaica Tourist Board and more recently was a presenter and co-host of the International Reggae & World Music Awards (IRAWMA) held at the Apollo Theatre in Harlem.
On stage Leon has performed for audiences worldwide, delivering compelling performances at major events like the Music & Arts Festival in New Orleans; The Essence Music Festival with the legendary Temptations; New York Summer Stage; Reggae On The River in California and headlined the concert in Central Park celebrating the NYC Aids Walk (2003-2005). Last January he delivered his debut set at Rebel Salute 2006 in Jamaica where he held fans in a musical trance performing songs from his catalogue.
Earlier this year he and the Peoples Band received critical acclaim for their independently produced 13-track debut album "The Road Less Traveled." Stand out songs include "Working Man" - a duet with DJ Tony Rebel, "Let Me Live My Life" and the lead single, a dancehall/reggae cover of the R&B classic "Second That Emotion" which was recorded with dj Tanto Metro.
"When I was growing up, the music I loved came from bands. The instruments are live and shine just as much as the vocals. It was important that we took the time to nurture our sound and perform live as much as possible before recording our first album" says Leon.
"The Road Less Traveled is the culmination of years of hard work and harnessing the energy and creative vision of a great team. We put together a positive representation of our sound, reggae soul" he remarked.
The Road Less Traveled was produced at Pulse Studios in New York City under the direction of executive producer JK and multi-faceted, producer and underground hip hop DJ/performer Pismo. JK has worked with several artists including Herbie Hancock and Syleena Johnson. Syleena appears on the re-mixed track "Bottles and Cans" which was originally performed by Angie Stone. Several other people contributed their time and talent to make the disc something special including Beres Hammond who produced "New Day."
This article from Pepa Pot Maga-Zeen
moving and impacts the listener from start to finish. It's great that so
many textures are employed, such diversity of sound and message,
there's something for each of our differences and yet it's more about
Bet ya can't listen just once! I just leave it on 'repeat'.”
Sirius Satellite Radio
“LEON & THE PEOPLES CD ‘The Road Less Traveled’ gives you a
warm vibe from its single “THAT EMOTION”, it’s colorful,
thought provoking with great messages.”
WRKS/98.7 KISS-FM, NEW YORK
“The Road Less Traveled is soon to become one of the busiest
thorough fares in reggae music.
With strong songs, great production and wicked guests Tony Rebel
and Tanto Metro it soars way above the run off the mill reggae
offerings of late.
Leon's debut album is as powerful as his acting and a candidate
for the Reggae Grammy. One of the best reggae albums of 2006.”
NATIVE WAYNE JOBSON
Indie 103.1 Radio (Los Angeles) and Napster