Leslie has worked professionally since the early '70s in jazz, musical theater, cabaret, concert, club, and broadcast venues as an improvising pianist, composer/arranger, vocal performance artist and classical soprano--from duos to more than a dozen improvising performers. She breathes new life into existing genres with eclectic juxtapositions, including jazz, classical song, avant-garde improvisation, opera, modern classical, cabaret, performance art, multi-media and electronic music. She resides in the Denver/Boulder metro area. Leslie is also a poet.
As a pianist and composer, Leslie combines post-bop, avant garde and free jazz elements with impressionist, serialist, minimalist and aleatoric classical music vocabulary. Her early formative influences include Messaien, Varese, Scriabin, Bartok, Schoenberg, Alban Berg, Berio, Crumb, Xenakis, Stockhausen, Shapey, Satie, Bill Evans, Jaki Byard, Cecil Taylor, Paul Bley, Martial Solal, Andrew Hill, Keith Jarrett, Corea's earlier freer works, Braxton, AACM and the Art Ensemble. Leslie received a grant in 1997 for the performance of original compositions for voice and improvising string chamber ensembles at the Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art (BMoCA).
Leslie's soprano is a full lyric with a mezzo-like lower register. She sings in 8 languages as well as extended techniques like sprechstimme, overtone chanting and electronic processors. As a singer, in addition to performances of 19th Century and later classical concert and operatic repertoire, Leslie has been privileged to work with and perform for many contemporary composers on performances of their works, including Steve Reich, Iannis Xenakis, Morgan Powell, Sal Martirano, Ralph Shapey, Zack Browning, Robert Fleischman, Jackson MacLow and Anne Tardos. In 1994, Leslie performed Anne Tardos' photo-poetry collage in 5 languages, Cat Licked the Garlic, for speaker/singer with multi-media projections, for the Beat Poetry Conference sponsored by Naropa Institute.
Click on "Hooks" for more details on performances. For recordings and books, click on "Boots".
By her teens, Leslie showed an aptitude for performing jazz, classical and modern music on 3 instruments. Originally from the Chicago area, Leslie began her professional career as a symphonic french hornist and jazz singer/pianist while in high school, and in those years heard as a classical soprano soloist on Chicago's WGN and WFMT. She attended the University of Illinois School of Music as a double major in performance in opera and french horn, as well as jazz studies/composition, including private study with jazz pianist Tony Caramia, serial composer/electronic pioneer/jazz pianist Sal Martirano, composer/jazz trombonist Morgan Powell and jazz trumpeter Ray Sasaki (also formerly with the San Francisco Symphony). Leslie later pursued professional studies with jazz pianist/composer Garry Dial (now at Manhattan School of Music), and as an operatic singer with dramatic mezzo/Wagnerian soprano Elizabeth Mannion (formerly with the Metropolitan Opera) and vocal coach-accompanist-conductor Richard Boldrey (Lyric Opera of Chicago & Northwestern University).
In 1993 on moving to the Denver/Boulder metro area, Leslie unexpectedly forayed again professionally into improvisational piano after decades away. Through the '90s she performed steadily on piano and keyboards as a sideman and composer/arranger in avant garde, creative jazz and free improv, in addition to vocal work in free improv opera, multi-media and spoken word. This exploration led to recording, broadcast and live film score dates with various local leaders and as a headliner, as well as a grant as a headlining artist and composer for new works for classical soprano, improvising string quartet and guitar.
Always interested in pushing her envelope, Leslie's solo piano CD was recorded as a personal experiment and challenge in completely free improv, no sketches or preconceptions before recording. (A few covers were later added to the CD from the same recording dates.)