Bio DENISE LESLIE
"Raised in east Toronto, there was almost always music blaring from our house – mainly from my brother’s massive Serwin Vegga speakers. I had a very musical father who was an avid jazz fan. This had a huge impact on all of his children, especially me. All 5 of us danced/listened in our Scarberian basement to Glenn Miller, Stan Getz/Juan Gilberto, Sinatra, Herb Alpert, and George Benson just as much as Michael Jackson, the BeeGees, Madonna and Tragically Hip. I sang in the Scarborough Choir and played piano."
Vocalist Denise Leslie also received formal training (grade 9 Royal Conservatory) in piano and intended on a post secondary education in music but after the sudden passing of her music teacher/mentor, her plans fell through. She received a BA and later a degree in Interior Design from Ryerson, but over the years, while practising interior design, she remained a devoted jazz fan, and listened, listened, listened. She also learned how to play the guitar but it was several years later, she married and began raising a family in Calgary that Denise began to sing seriously. "After many workshops, small recitals and much encouragement from friends, family and musicians, I made it my goal to establish a career as a jazz vocalist. I have made raising a family a goal as well, so it’s been slow, but very promising – and absolutely thrilling!"
Denise is a unique jazz vocalist who enjoys pulling various musical influences into her repertoire and vocal style - while this allows for a mastery of R&B and rock, what many would find unique to her is that she also possesses a distinctive knack for the art of syncopation and fluid phrasing in her approach, more conducive of course, to jazz. She has also proven herself to be a very proficient vocal improviser. "I love the standards and improvising/scatting for just the right tune, but I like to inject some variety in my set lists with unique arrangements and tunes from more recent artists such as Duffy, Amy Winehouse, Melody Gardot and Sting." Denise typically enjoys working in a trio format (piano/guitar, bass, voice), but creates a lovely, warm intimacy in a duo format as well. Some names that have come up in describing Denise's vocal style have been as varied as Linda Ronstadt, Joss Stone, Diana Krall and Julie London.
Starting with the Beatniq Jazz Club in Calgary Alberta, and a television spot on Calgary’s A Channel, this singer has been gigging regularly at jazz clubs and private functions for the past 10 years now - at functions/clubs such as the Carlu, Healy's, The Hard Rock Cafe, Gate 403, Ten Feet Tall, Joe Mama's, The Trane, Ten Feet Tall, Burlington Ribfest 2013, The Annex Live, Thorn Hill Golf & Country Club, Mississauga Golf Club, Jazz at Oscar's - Hart House/U of T, and Islington Golf Club. Denise has more recently collaborated with the Mississauga Big Band Jazz Ensemble. Led by arranger/composer and former Blood, Sweat &Tears' music director Bruce Cassidy, she was invited to host their 2013 Open Mic Event and to front the band for its annual Valentines Dinner/Dance. To keep performance chops up, she regularly fronted 3 charity R&B /Blues bands 2007 - 2013 and put in several years of work with choral groups, such as Revv '55 (formerly the Calgary Choral), Art of Jazz Singers led by Barry Harris and with Sarah John's Vespera Choir, further broadening her impressive vocal range. Denise has also developed a children's jazz workshop that has so far been brought to Maurice Cody Public School, Purple Tree Daycare and Girl Guides of Canada in Toronto.