What’s one thing—other than skill, talent, versatility and professionalism—that the All Star musicians headlining the March 17 Peñasco Palooza 2012 have in common? They all developed a great love of some musical instrument at a very early age. In many cases, the instrument they learned to play, some as early as 4 years of age, is not the one they now play to the professional perfection that helped take them to platinum stardom.
Leon Bisquera, one of the most highly sought after keyboardists and pianists in the jazz, R&B and Pop genres today was drawing a beat from two sticks with the ends wrapped in tape and a little toy drum as a 4 year old toddler. Though he didn’t start taking lessons until he was 10 and didn’t get his first set of drums until he was 13, he never lost interest in them like most kids would. Even when his mother urged him to start piano lessons when he was seven, Leon discovered that making music by the beat or by the note was equally exhilarating and he took to both with salacious enthusiasm.
Not until Leon accompanied his Mom to his first jazz performance at the age of 13 did he discover that jazz was his kind of music. At that young age he recognized the freedom and flexibility jazz could offer its creator. This was the music he wanted to play.
Young Leon tried to get his classical piano teachers to switch his lessons to jazz but they were just too specialized in the classics to help him with his new found musical love. He eventually stopped his classical piano lessons, not for dislike of classical music for it would later influence the subtleties of some of his greatest compositions, but for his love of jazz. With focus and dedication Leon practiced on his own, using records and music books, but most of all attending more and more live performances by the greats like Herbie Hancock who would prove to be a big influence on his career.
Leon practiced and played jazz piano at every opportunity throughout high school—appearing in backyards, garages, living rooms, wherever one or more humans, (or those accompanied by humans) would listen. He graduated high school known affectionately as the “Jazzhead.”
After that immersive learning experience, Leon Bisquera began a steady spiral upward to the highest ranks of performers and garnering wide audience and artist acceptance of his award winning compositions.
At 21, he joined his first band, Tierra, performing a lot of Pop and perfecting his keyboard proficiency for the next four years and after delving rather deeply into the art of music through college courses that included theory, history, arrangement, and about every other music class they offered.
By 1986 Leon had joined the Bus Boys, famous for their role in the first 48 Hours movie. But his skill on the keyboards and his artful style with the Grand Piano moved Leon onward to playing with super stars in their genre like Sax player, Boney James, for whom he created compositions appearing on at least ten of Boney’s albums. Leon’s compositions also appear on albums by Warren Hill and Richard Elliott.
Jazz trumpet great, Rick Braun and his music director asked Leon to give them a “good” track for Rick’s then upcoming album, Body and Soul. Not only did he compose a good song, Leon gave them Notorious, awarded “Song of the Year” in 1997! Rick Braun was solidified as royalty among jazz trumpeters with his ability to bring the feeling of Leon’s masterful composition to life, exactly as the great composer had intended.
Just as his reputation as a truly great composer was established, his skills as a master performance artist were admired and in demand. Leon toured the world for nearly a decade with the great jazz songstress, Randy Crawford; he performed for several years with Boney James; toured with Chaka Kahn; performed with Brothers Johnson, Bisquera Brothers (he founded and composed most of their songs); and John Waite to name a few.
Leon has played the Grand Piano for Anita Baker since 2007 and still appears with her when she performs. He has appeared with Gary Wright (Dream Weaver, Love is Alive fame) and is scheduled to perform with him this April.
So, what is an accomplished jazz and R&B keyboardist doing in a Rock and Roll concert? The question begged to be asked so we accommodated. Leon loves the energy of Rock and Roll and he likes the “Intent” of Rock and Roll music. And “ when it hits, it hits hard and that’s a lot of fun!”, says this master musician.
“And what did you like most about your first visit to Rocky Point last October?”
“I think it was the people. Everyone was so nice, friendly, accommodating. It made the trip and hectic timing very comfortable. ”
Well, Leon, we all look forward to your visit in March! Thanks for letting us inside your impressive career.
This blog is brought to you by Sonoran Resorts Sales Group, Jim Ringquist, Director of Sales.