Oberlin

Leon Lee Dorsey '81, bass


Pittsburgh native Leon Lee Dorsey's fluid and ubiquitous bass has energized jazz masters Lionel Hampton, Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers, Gloria Lynne, and jazz vocalist Cassandra Wilson. In addition, he has performed with conductors Lukas Foss and Robert Fountain. In September 1999, he made his solo recital debut at Lincoln Center.

A composer and arranger, Dorsey has performed with such jazz greats as Dizzy Gillespie, Wynton Marsalis, Freddie Hubbard, John Lewis, Kenny Clarke, Jon Hendricks, Harry “Sweets” Edison, Dorothy Donegan, Stanley Turrentine, George Benson, Ellis Marsalis, Neena Freelon and Terumasa Hino. He has also performed in big bands with the Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra, Benny Carter, the Duke Ellington Orchestra, Illinois Jacquet, and Charlie Persip's Superband.

In 2008, Dorsey was appointed coordinator of jazz studies at the University of Pittsburgh. He annually educates close to 1,000 students through his popular History of Jazz course, and also teaches jazz composition and arranging and jazz improvisation.

Dorsey also has been the musical director of the University of Pittsburgh Jazz Seminar. This weeklong event features film, lectures and community outreach performances. Her performs and arranges the seminar's closing annual fall concert that has attracted such artists as Patrice Rushen, Benny Golson, Larry Coryell, Terri Lyne Carrington, Lou Soloff, Leon 'Ndugu' Chancellor. In addition, Dorsey directs the University of Pittsburgh Jazz Ensemble, which has toured Jamaica twice and featured guest soloist Mark Whitfield and Claudio Roditi.

For the last seven years, Dorsey has managed Leon Lee Dorsey Studios in New York City, which is designed specifically toward acoustic music. He has produced more than 100 recordings in a variety of musical genres. He's recorded with Bill Cosby, Billy Taylor, George Coleman, Ron Carter, Gary Bartz, Reggie Workman, Grady Tate, Hilton Ruiz, Monty Alexander and Danny Glover, and has produced the Oberlin Conservatory Jazz Faculty CD, Beauty Surrounds Us.

Other career highlights include working with Frank Sinatra at Carnegie Hall, guest appearances at the White House under Presidents Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton, and performances with Joe Williams and the operatic diva Marilyn Home.

He has graced jazz festivals concert halls throughout the world and recorded with Lionel Hampton, Art Blakey, Hilton Ruiz, George Coleman, Gloria Lynne, Freddie Hubbard, Frank Wess, Dave Valintine, Archie Shepp, John Hicks, and Dakota Staton among others. Dorsey's internationally acclaimed jazz recordings, The Watcher' and 'Song of Songs featured his compositional and arranging talents.

He has a doctorate in classical double bass under the distinguished Ron Carter at the Grad Center of City University of New York, and holds master's degrees from the University of Wisconsin and the Manhattan School of Music. He received his bachelor of music degrees in classical double bass and jazz performance from Oberlin College.

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