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Ghost light for a jazz cat – Redux

April 28, 2013

Last night at the Denton Arts & Jazz Fest, the “Original” Blues Brothers Band performed on the Jazz Stage at 9 p.m. At 10 p.m., the

Leon Breeden listens to One O'Clock Lab Band. Dallas Morning-News

Leon Breeden listens to One O’Clock Lab Band. Dallas Morning-News

powerhouse group of musicians played their first of two encores. Winding up at 10:30-ish, the band, still holding the rapt audience in the Jazz Stage area – on their feet, with a nostalgic, yet very tasty version of “I Need You … you … you..”

For many of these cats, it was homecoming, and not for the first time.

In 2011, many of the Blues Brothers Band members gather for a tribute concert to Leon Breeding, “the bandleader who groomed the University of North Texas jazz studies program to be what it is today: the foremost laboratory for rising jazz musicians,” Lucinda Breeding wrote in the following Denton Record-Chronicle story from that year.

(See Blues Brothers hit Dentonmeeting old friends, debuting next-gen performers.)

Ghost light for a jazz cat

By Lucinda Breeding / Features Editor
Denton Record-Chronicle

Published: 28 April 2011 02:28 AM

“Blue” Lou Marini said he expects the opening headliner concert for the Denton Arts & Jazz Festival to be an emotional one for the guys on stage. Marini, who has made his name playing the clarinet in the world’s best jazz ensembles, joins his peers Tom “Bones” Malone, a jazz trombonist, and trumpet player Marvin Stamm in a concert tribute to Leon Breeden at 9 p.m., Friday, in Quakertown Park.

Marvin Stamm

Marvin Stamm

Breeden was the bandleader who groomed the University of North Texas jazz studies program to be what it is today: the foremost laboratory for rising jazz musicians.

“He was a huge cat,” Marini said, recalling his mentor. “There’s no other way to describe Leon, really.”

Breeden died last August at age 88. He inherited the jazz studies program from Gene Hall in 1959, when the music school’s focus was the classical genre. He stepped down as leader of the One O’clock Lab Band in 1981, and he retired in 1984.

(Click here to view Leon Breeden obituaries:,

During his years at UNT, Breeden amassed an impressive collection of sheet music for the university’s music library. He took the top jazz band – the One O’clock – to the White House three times.

"Blue" Lou Marini

“Blue” Lou Marini

Marini remembers Breeden as a survivor, and a man who deferred a performing career to nurture future jazzers. Breeden was also a friend, he said.

“In his personal life, Leon went through the ‘trials of Job,'” Marini said. “His youngest son was killed in a car crash. His older son, David, who was first chair clarinet in the One O’clock when I was in the band and who was the principal clarinet in the orchestra in San Francisco, died after he got cancer.” Breeden outlived both of his wives, and is survived by his daughter, Vicki.

“I don’t think a lot of people know that he went through those trials,” Marini said. “He was a strong person.”

Marini, Malone and Stamm will perform the tribute concert with the Official

Tom "Bones" Malone

Tom “Bones” Malone

Texas Jazz Orchestra (under the direction of former UNT Jazz faculty and saxophonist, Jim Riggs).

“All of the people on stage Friday were trained by Leon Breeden,” Malone said. “He wanted everyone to reach their potential as a professional musician. He did this by treating us as professionals during rehearsals. Most music educators treat their students like children. We were treated as adults.”

Marini agreed.

“A long time ago, North Texas acquired what I call critical mass, and what I mean by that is that students learned as much from each other as they did from their teacher,” Marini said. “When you’re that young and you’re that interested in your instrument, you’re firing on all cylinders. It’s something you see with professional musicians and that you don’t always see with students.

“I’m playing with James Taylor’s band, and this band is like that. Every night, we discover something in the music that we never had before. I’m playing with some serious cats in this band, and I can’t say enough about James Taylor, either.”

The tribute concert will be a mix of Breeden’s signature arrangements, beloved jazz songs and improvised solos, Marini said. The orchestra shares the lab band model: five trumpets, five saxophones, five trombones and four rhythm players.

If the musicians cook on Friday night, Stamm said, the crowd will hear a real tribute to Breeden.

Leon always encouraged us to speak with our own musical voices, to develop our individuality,” Stamm said. “Lou Marini, Tom Malone, me, the members of the Texas Jazz Orchestra, all of us UNT people who worked under Leon, will be paying tribute by doing just that – playing the music he loved and speaking to that music with our own voices in our own individual ways. That is what Leon would have considered the greatest tribute.”

LUCINDA BREEDING can be reached at 940-566-6877. Her e-mail address is


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