|Born||October 19, 1922|
|Died||November 25, 1979(aged 57)|
Sash was blind from age 11. He studied harmony with Lew Klatt, arranging with Mac Gerrard. and made his professional debut at age 16. He made a novel series of recordings for EmArcy in 1954 using voices in place of brass and reed sections. Sash was the first jazz accordionist requested to perform at the Newport Jazz Festival, in 1957. This performance was released by Verve in 1957. His career spanned almost four decades of international fame and recognition. His accomplishments included composing, arranging, staff musician at WLS radio in Chicago, TV guest appearances, concerts, and club dates in some of the top jazz rooms in the country. In the International Musician, Leonard Feather named him one of the "Giants of Jazz".
During his career Leon recorded for EmArcy, Verve, Storyville, Columbia, and Delmark. His jazz quartet featured reed man Ted Robinson and Leon's wife Lee on bass and vocals. The quartet shared billings with jazz greats Zoot Sims, Mulligan, Shearing, Garner, and Brubeck at top jazz clubs such as Storyville in Boston, the Cafe Bohemia in New York, and Chicago's famous Blue Note. In the 1960s, Jerry Cigler and Jerry Brown joined Leon and Lee in a big band sound using three uniquely voiced accordions, two of which had larger reeds. The bass accordion played by Brown was comparable to a trombone section, and Cigler's tenor accordion was voiced like a reed section, Leon played the brass section and Lee sang the top trumpet part. Leon's folios, volumes 1 and 2 of Sash 'N' Jazz and Rockin' Blues, published by O. Pagani Music in New York City have been sought after by many musicians because of the written jazz improvisation and proper accents as played by Leon - truly a great help in seeing how jazz should be played. In later years, Leon and Lee, with drummer Ed Uhlig and jazz violinist Eddie Vanna, played club dates in the Chicago area. The quartet also had the honor of being invited by President Carter to play one of the Inaugural Balls in 1977 and performed before 20,000 people at the National Visitors' Center in Washington D.C.
Leon died on November 25, 1979 from a heart condition. At his funeral Mass, Jerry Cigler performed the Jerome Kern standard "All the Things You Are" in the rubato style made famous by Leon. After Leon's passing, his wife Lee continued the Leon Sash Quartet with jazz accordionist Bob Gray, one of Leon's proteges. She also worked hard to preserve the memory of Leon by re-issuing his recordings on LP and cassette tape, through Sounds of Sash, Ltd.
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