Associate Professor of Jazz Saxophone
Director of the Three O'Clock Lab Band
Department(s)Jazz Studies, Woodwinds
Brad Leali, a native of Denver, Colorado, joined the University of North Texas faculty in August 2008 as Professor of Jazz Saxophone. In addition to studio teaching, he teaches jazz performance fundamentals and directs the Three O’Clock Lab Band. A native of Denver, Colorado, Leali received a Bachelor of Arts degree in music education from North Texas in 1989 where he played with the One O’Clock Lab Band. After earning his Master’s degree from Rutgers University in 2005, he was appointed head of the jazz program at Texas Tech University, where several scholarships have been established in his name, including the Brad Leali Endowed Jazz Scholarship.
From 1989-1994, Leali was lead alto saxophonist for the Harry Connick, Jr., Orchestra, serving as its musical director from 1990-1994. In 1995, he joined the Count Basie Orchestra under the leadership of Grover Mitchell. During his years as one of the top jazz musicians in New York City, Leali was a staple in legendary jazz venues like the Village Vanguard, Blue Note, Jazz Standard, Iridium, and Birdland. He has also performed in Lincoln Center in the orchestras of jazz legends Nancy Wilson and Benny Golson. Leali’s numerous television appearances include local news programs, the Today show (Peter Cincotti), Jay Leno, Arsenio Hall, BET, and the Harry Connick, Jr., Christmas Special. He performs yearly as part of the Kennedy Center Honors program. Most recently, Leali performed at President Obama’s inaugural celebration “We Are One,” backing up artists such as Stevie Wonder, Bruce Springsteen, John Legend, Mary J. Blige, and Herbie Hancock. Other artists with whom he has played include Freddie Hubbard, Clark Terry, Joe Williams, Jimmy Cobb, Frank Foster, Jon Hendricks, Roy Hargrove, The Mingus Big Band, Jack McDuff, George Duke, Dr. Lonnie Smith, Jimmy Smith, Robert Downey, Jr., Fantasia, Billy Joel, Kid Rock, Yolanda Adams, and Brian McKnight.
Leali’s first solo recording was Priority Soul! in 1998 on the New Jazz Renaisssance Recordings label. In 1999, the Count Basie Orchestra won a Grammy award for Count Plays Duke with Leali receiving his own nomination for his solo work on the classic Billy Strayhorn composition, "The Star-Crossed Lovers." Leali departed from the Basie orchestra in 2000 to focus on his career as a soloist. His discography since then includes Live in Europe (Brad Leali Quartet, 2004); Brooklyn Soul Organization (also produced by Leali, 2004); the critically acclaimed Maria Juanez (2006), which features his own compositions and eighteen-piece jazz orchestra; and DA’s Time (Brad Leali-Claus Raible Quartet, 2008) on the TCB label.
“Saxophonist Brad Leali was among the most soulful and exciting I’ve heard recently.” - New York Times - “Alto saxophonist Brad Leali has a bright amiable way of playing!” - New York Times - “His solos are sparkling and Cannonball Adderley influenced.” - Evening Standard (London, England).