If ever you are eager to have some place to go and something to do during summer, plan on making a visit to the heart of Northern California’s wine country. The Napa-Sonoma region offers some of the best experiences of a wine growing region the world over. The town of Sonoma itself is a gem and retains much of its authentic historical and agricultural charm. Not many people know, but Sonoma offers some choice cultural events for summer vacationers. Among them is the annual summer concert series.
The peak of summer was in full swing as the Leon Joyce Quartet performed at the Plaza on July 10, courtesy of the Sonoma Valley Jazz Society. Each summer the society goes to great effort to bring to Sonoma the best of Jazz music and live entertainment.
The concerts coincide with the weekly evening Farmer’s Market, that is held in the Plaza through out the summer season. Referred to as “Tuesday Night Market Jazz,” the open air concerts are free to the public.
The recent heatwave that has impacted much of California did not deter people from showing up in crowds at the Plaza that evening. Music began at 6 PM. The seats were filled on that Tuesday evening as the musicians had the audience clapping their hands and tapping their feet to the rhythm. Leon Joyce, Jr the quartet’s founder lead on Drums, Wayne De La Cruz, was on Hammond B-3, James Mahone, played Saxophone and Tommy Kesecker was Vibe.
Although Leon’s musical career began in high school, it really was shaped and nurtured when he joined the Marine Corps in 1976. In the years that followed, the Connecticut native traveled through the U.S. and the world as a field band musician in Marine Corps Bands.
He graduated from the Intermediate Course at the Armed Forces School of Music in 1987. Promoted to rank of Gunnery Sergeant Joyce, he reported to the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing Band as Percussion Section Leader in April, 1990. He was then promoted to his present rank in August, 1990. In August, 1991, he was appointed to the position of Drum Major. Leon retired from the Marine Corps in June of 1997 from the Marine Corps Logistic Base in Albany, GA.
Leon is very proud of his years with the Marines. Gunnery Sergeant Joyce’s military awards include the Navy Commendation Medal, Navy Achievement Medal, Naval Unit Commendation, Meritorious Unit Commendation, second award, Good Conduct Medal, fifth award, the National Defense Medal & the Marine Corps Sea Service Deployment Ribbon, second award.
In civilian life as a drummer Leon has worked for a wide variety of top artists. A short list would include Ramsey Lewis, Nancy Wilson, Smokey Robinson, Teena Marie, Howard Hewitt, Norman Connors, Tom Browne, Ann Hampton-Callaway, Yve Evans, Monty Alexander, Barry Harris, James Carter, Clark Terry, Conte Condoli, Ellis Marsalis, Larry Coryell, Gary Bartz, Billy Harper, Pete Fountain, Barbara Morrison, Patti LaBelle & Mary Wilson. Leon is currently a regular with the Leon Joyce Trio, Quartet and Quintet, the Sista Monica Band, the Jamie Davis Quintet, and the 57th Street Galley House Band. He also freelances in and around the Chicago and San Francisco Bay areas with numerous other artists. As a percussionist, he has performed under the direction of Carmen Dragon, Claude T. Smith, Dr. Larry Curtis, Cooleridge Taylor-Perkinson & Bill Russo.
As a clinician, Leon has led many clinics in Chicago and the United States at various educational institutions and music programs.
Leon has appeared at many of the top International Jazz Festivals, including Montreaux & Lugano Jazz Festivals in Switzerland and the Villingen Swing/Jazz Festival in Germany. Nationally, he has appeared in the Monterey Jazz and Blues, Playboy Jazz and JVC Jazz Festivals in California, New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival in Louisiana & the JVC Jazz Festival in Colorado. Locally he has appeared in the Chicago Jazz Festival, the San Francisco Jazz Festival, the Chicago Blues Festival & the South Shore Jazz and Heritage Festival and the Carmel Jazz Fest.
He and his quartet were very pleased to be in Sonoma this past Tuesday. The aroma of food on the grill which is characteristic of the Tuesday evening Farmer’s Market scene mixed wonderfully with the quartet’s sound. They played familiar jazz standards as well as new compositions.
This coming Sept. 24 Leon Joyce Jr. and his musicians will be performing in Sacramento at the Sacramento Masonic Temple. For more details visit EventBright web site.
To learn more about the Sonoma Valley Jazz Society’s line up of free summer concerts for 2018 visit the Sonoma Valley Jazz Society web site.