Jazz Musician Reggie Leatherberry
Written by Hope Valley resident, Beth Bader
Reggie Leatherberry plays three instruments well: the flute and
the alto and tenor saxophones. But he is best known to the
musicians he plays with, his family and friends, and his audiences
for his eloquence on the tenor saxophone. Reggie plays
his tenor sax in four groups: the North Carolina Jazz Ensemble
(NCJE), Moon and the Stars, the Ed Moon Trio, and his own
ensemble, The Reggie Leatherberry Quintet featuring vocalist
Wen DeVear. Reggie also is a member of the Music Ministry at
Union Baptist Church on Roxboro St., Durham NC.
The NCJE travels all over the state playing big band jazz.
Moon and the Stars are eclectic in the music they play – different
styles of jazz as well as popular favorites. Reggie’s
Quintet plays mostly jazz. Moon and the Stars, the Ed Moon
Trio, and Reggie’s Quintet play at music venues and also at
a large variety of events – parties, corporate events, wedding
receptions, family reunions, social events of graduate chapters
of sororities and fraternities, etc. They play all over the Triangle
and as far away as Greensboro.
Reggie has also played with other groups such as Johnny White
and the Elite Band – with which he also played the alto saxophone
and the flute -- with Charley’s Show and Dance Band
– and with the FLEX Band of Durham. He says that his jazz
idol is Stanley Turrentine. While Reggie likes other jazz greats,
Turrentine is his idol because he also plays the tenor saxophone.
Reggie’s roles in all the groups he plays with now are important,
but by far his biggest role is as President of the NC Jazz
Ensemble, an eighteen-member big band founded by Bassist
Oliver Hodge and Saxophonist Stanley Baird. He carries out
leadership responsibilities as he organizes the band’s appearances
and rehearsals. He also helps identify possible funding
sources. The band’s fundraising efforts are targeted at arts
councils – state and county -- and private foundations. One
grant sponsored Ensemble travels through the state to areas
that would not normally be able to experience live big band
music like that performed by bands like Duke Ellington,
Count Basie and Glen Miller.
Presently the NCJE is working on a proposal to Glaxo Smith
Kline, which would allow the Ensemble to provide music education
and appreciation in schools. The Ensemble will also be
giving a concert at the Hayti Heritage Center on December
15, and the Ed Moon Trio (Ed Moon – bass, Emilie Scott –
piano, and Reggie – saxophone and flute) will be playing at the
Irregardless Café on November 2 and December 31. The trio
adds the Drummer, Bill Hayes and Guitarist, Lou Pedro at
9:30 and become Moon and The Stars. They play dance music
until 11:00. Reggie said that while jazz is very popular, audience
development is his most difficult task!
Reggie’s father, a physics major at NCA&T, taught high school
math and French. He took a job in Oxford, NC as assistant
superintendent where he also directed the band. He later
returned to the public school system where he resumed teaching
math and directed the band before he became a principal.
Reggie’s Dad felt strongly that all of his five boys should learn
how to play major instruments. Reggie began his musical career
in his early years playing the Tonette, a kind of recorder. Then
when he was ten years old, he began to take formal music lessons,
starting with the clarinet and subsequently picking up the
saxophone. He reports that he -- like most other kids who are
learning to play instruments – had to be nagged to practice. The
one difference for him was that he couldn’t fake practicing since
he lived full-time with his teacher – that is, his Dad. Reggie
continued playing the saxophone through high school and for
two years at North Carolina Central University.
Reggie was drafted into the U.S. Army in the ‘60s, even though
he was attending Central at the time. After basic training at
Ft. Gordon, Georgia, Reggie was sent to Ft. Sill, Oklahoma for
artillery training. While at Ft. Sill, Reggie would sign out a saxophone
from the service club to play for his own entertainment.
After participating in a “jam” session, he was invited to join a
band led by a lieutenant from another unit on post. Since Reggie
didn’t have transportation, the lieutenant would leave his car
so that Reggie could attend rehearsals at his off-post apartment.
When Reggie was drafted, he and his friend were told that they
could volunteer to go to Germany and thus avoid the Vietnam
War. Unfortunately, they discovered the lie when, after being
sent to Germany, Reggie was reassigned to an infantry brigade
at Fort Benning, Georgia to be trained for combat in Vietnam.
Reggie served the last six months of his military service in Vietnam.
When Reggie was discharged from the Army, he entered
Durham Tech to study electronics. His father, along with all of
his other education and career endeavors, had studied electronics
at A&T, so Reggie followed in his footsteps.
Reggie said that a friend of his from his classes at Tech invited
him to go along to an interview the friend had at the UNC
Chemistry Department for a position providing electronics
support for teaching and research labs in Venable Hall
there. The friend didn’t get the job, but Reggie did, and he has
worked at UNC ever since. Now officially "retired," Reggie
only works part-time. He says they keep calling him back, and
he can’t resist supporting the work of the students and professors
in the labs.
Father of three daughters, Nikki, LeKeisha and Tonisha, and
four grandchildren, Reggie has worked over the years to pass
along his love of music and his talent to his family. One of his
grandsons plays saxophone and one plays the clarinet. The two
granddaughters don’t play musical instruments yet. Reggie’s
wife, Margaret, is not a musician, but she supports his and the
grandchildren’s many activities patiently and whole-heartedly,
and puts up with Reggie’s busy schedule. The day after this
interview, one of the grandsons was scheduled to play in a football
game and his granddaughter performed as a cheerleader.
Reggie had an important NCJE rehearsal that conflicted, so his
wife cheerfully accepted the grandparental support role.
Reggie’s life, as well as the lives of his family and friends, is
full of his music. Although all of his brothers were also taught
to play a musical instrument, none of them are still playing
their instruments; Reggie is the only one. It seems, though,
that he is doing enough to cover all of them. His favorite
musical memories are playing with his father, who passed away
in 1986. Dad is surely very honored and very proud of his son’s
enormous talents and the way he shares them through his
many musical involvements!
Thank you, Reggie for sharing your story with us! There are many
artistic people in Hope Valley that we would love to feature. Please
e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to be featuredor know of someone we should contact. Thanks!