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Issue 1084

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Feature

LEON WARE: A WELCOME RETURN

Leon Ware
Leon Ware

For UK soul fans, the name "Leon Ware" has long been associated with some of the best music thatâs been made in the past thirty years.

Going back to his groundbreaking work with Marvin Gaye on the 'I Want You' and his own much-revered 'Musical Massage' LP, the prolific Mr. Ware (whose compositions have been recorded by a vast list of folks including Minnie Riperton, Maxwell, Quincy Jones, Michael Jackson, Zulema, The Average White Band, Marlena Shaw, Nancy Wilson and John Legend among many others) has been justifiably a favourite among Brit soul peeps: I can recall vividly seeing him at The Jazz Café a few years ago and watching gobsmacked as the entire place sang along with him on such tunes as 'Why I Came To California' and 'Rockinâ You Eternally'! Amazing.

Thus the news that Leon has a new album ('Moon Ride') with a major label (the sensible folks at Stax/Concord) is more than welcome. âI believe that this record will realize what the others havenât,â says the man who â his official bio states â âwears the mantle of a minister of smouldering sexuality expressed through music.â âI feel like it will get the full promotion and exposure and Iâve never been prouder of a product Iâve recorded.â

Apparently, the original plan was to do a compilation of Leon Ware material but once the powers-that-be at Concord heard the hypnotic standout cut âLoceans,â Leon says, âIt escalated into an album of all new material and of course, I was very happy about that.â The song that jumpstarted 'Moon Ride' was inspired âby a personal moment,â Leon reveals. âItâs an expression of my romantic lust for life,â says the man who readily admits that âI use the bedroom as my temple, sex as a religion and music as my ministry!â

'Moon Ride' is indeed filled with songs that provide the perfect soundtrack for a romantic liaison, a chillout time with a loved one or us single folks, an opportunity to fantasize about what we would do if we were with a special someone! Examples abound such as 'To Serve You (All My Love),' 'Hold Tonight' and 'Just Take Your Timeâ'(written with renowned L.A. session guitarist David T. Walker who is also featured on the track). Thereâs also the infectious 'Smoovinâ and 'Urban Nights' which, Leon says, âwas going to the original title track for the album.â

Most of the material on the album was written in the last few years but one song, 'I Never Loved So Much' (written with John Barnes, best known for his work with Michael Jackson among others) is over twenty years old. âOddly enough, I never showed it to anyone,â Leon comments. âThere have been six or seven songs that Iâve written that I didnât want to record and that was one of them.â The cut 'Whisper Away' has a decidedly jazz feel to it and Leon recalls, âI discovered back in 1962, 1963 when I started writing that I could put jazz chords into R&B songs and thatâs something Iâve been doing from that day until now. Itâs funny because Iâve often been considered a jazz/R&B artist and in the industry, people have asked âis he an R&B artist or a jazz artist?â I just think of myself as a musical servant, here to serve the people with my music.â

Itâs obvious that Leon, a master of musical sensuality, is excited about the new CD and he explains, âIâve always been known more as a songwriter and producer. I remember I had the option to be fully-fledged artist in 1980 with 'Rockinâ You Eternally' but I was loving producing and writing for so many other artists at the time. I donât think my potential as a recording artist has ever been realized because basically, Iâm the one who didnât want to do it. With this new record, Iâm ready to get out there. I feel itâs one of my best efforts ever and Iâm looking forward to as many people as people as possible hearing it. I think that with this album, there are quite a few people who will discover my music for the first time.â

Certainly, the reaction Leon has received over the years from loyal fans in Europe and Japan has been a big factor in sustaining him and he says, âWhat Iâm loving now is realizing that the music and the sentiments in it are timeless. Itâs staggering when I stop and think about the people the music touches from all walks of life. It is such a fulfillment to know that my work has meaning and that youâll never how many people youâve touched, people whose names youâll never know.â Judging from that cheering crowd at The Jazz Café a few years back and from those whoâve had an opportunity to hear 'Moon Ride' (easily one of my personal favourite albums of 2008), Leon Wareâs music continues to be as relevant as ever.
Words DAVID NATHAN

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