Born in 1959 and raised in Spring House, Pennsylvania, Neil Leonard began playing saxophone at age twelve. By high school he was playing in Philadelphia jazz bands with young lions Robin Eubanks, Uri Cane, Michael Ray and local legends such as Odean Pope, Shirley Scott and Lex Humphries.
Leonard began experimenting with electronics in high school and followed the Hendrix to Sun Ra to Cage/Ussachevsky route into electronic music. At age sixteen he was making tapes of synthetic and processed sound and using them as an accompaniment to his band in concert.
In 1980 Leonard entered New England Conservatory where he studied with Jaki Byard and George Russell, and graduated in 1984 with a B.M. in Jazz Performance. Leonard taught himself how to use the newly available microcomputers and digital synthesizers. He designed software to track his live performance and create a response spontaneously.
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Mr. Leonard creates a haunting, rhythmic, chantlike score, secular spiritual
music for a New World. After leaving the gallery I kept hearing it, with delight, in
my head, on the street, all afternoon.
Holland Cotter, New York Times, October 2013