Music Career Overview
Hugh Leal of Windsor Ontario has worked for over thirty-five years, variously as a jazz concert promoter, record producer and player.
Leal's independent concert promotions started in 1977 and brought to Windsor some of the then-remaining pioneers of 1920's and 30's "hot jazz" such as Wild Bill Davison, Vic Dickenson, Doc Cheatham, Art Hodes, Buddy Tate, Bud Freeman, Sammy Price, Franz Jackson and Cozy Cole. Later promotions (including five Windsor Jazz Festivals 1992 to 1996) featured artists Tommy Flanagan, Zoot Sims, Mundell Lowe, Ray Bryant, Rob McConnell, Oliver Jones, Bucky Pizzarelli, Peter Appleyard, Ed Bickert and many others. From 1987 until his 2015 passing, trumpeter Marcus Belgrave became a major focus of Leal's promotional work. Leal continues jazz promotion with a current series featuring his Speakeasy Quartet at historic Mackenzie Hall.
Leal started his Parkwood Records label with a 1983 LP release of trumpeter Doc Cheatham. That record received accolades in many countries: it was named in lists for "top ten jazz LPs of the year" by The New York Times' jazz critic, Bulletin du Hot Club de France etc. Leal followed with over two dozen more LP and CD releases through 1998. (label sold in 2000). He recorded more well-received albums by Cheatham, Art Hodes, J.C. Heard, Dick Wellstood, Franz Jackson, Johnny O'Neal and others. Leal's productions proved to be Marcus Belgrave's only ongoing record labels: between his Parkwood issues and the later WJS Jazz Discs., Belgrave appeared on 11 albums which Leal produced. Some recordings from Leal's catalogue were named as 4 and 5 star rated albums in leading jazz encyclopedias and buying guides: Penguin, Rolling Stone, Rough Guide, Feather's Bio. Encyclopedia and garnered accolades in major papers: The Chicago Tribune, Village Voice, The Globe and Mail etc.
Hugh Leal has been active on banjo and rhythm guitar since 1970 when he played frequently all over Detroit in The Red Garter Banjo Band. Since that first professional performing, Leal has continued playing, leading dixieland combos in Windsor and Detroit for many functions. From 2001 to 2008 Leal toured as guitarist and road manager in trumpeter Marcus Belgrave's Tribute to Louis Armstrong and since 2005 in the same roles with clarinet prodigy Dave Bennett's Tribute to Benny Goodman. Leal has played these concerts in thirty-five US states, Canada and Puerto Rico and with over thirty orchestras for symphony "pops", including Detroit, Toronto, Nashville, Vancouver and in 2013 at Carnegie Hall with The New York Pops featuring Dave Bennett.