The Alex Merritt/Sam Leak quartet formed when Alex moved to London in 2010 and met Sam when he had just graduated from the Royal Academy. They have since been playing lots together in various formations at many top UK Jazz venues and at Brecon Jazz Festival, the London Jazz Festival and the Orpington Jazz Festival.
Sam and Alex have a particular penchant for work on reharmonisations and arrangements of standard compositions and have each written lots for their current performance repertoire. Recently they have been exploring lesser played Thelonius Monk material as well as other choice jazz standards.
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Sam Leak is a London-based Jazz pianist described by JazzFM’s Helen Mayhew as ‘One of the brightest stars in the Jazz piano galaxy, a heavenly improviser, and a brilliant prospect for the future.’
He is highly involved in a number of different Jazz scenes throughout the UK. He is most widely known for his band ‘Aquarium,’ for which he is both pianist and composer. Also featured are James Allsopp on Reeds, Joshua Blackmore on Drums, and Calum Gourlay on Double Bass. They have released two albums: their eponymous debut on the Babel Label in 2011 and their follow up album ‘Places’ on ‘Jellymould Jazz’ in 2013. Both have received widespread critical acclaim and regular radio play nationally. John Fordham described ‘Places’ in the Guardian as ‘surefooted creativity… way beyond respectful expertise’ and Daniel Spicer described it in BBC Music Magazine as ‘assured and sophisticated acoustic jazz with deep roots in the tradition, that knows exactly what it’s trying to do – and succeeds.’ Jamie Cullum introduced Aquarium as ‘the heavyweights of the British Jazz scene’ and described himself as a ‘fan’ of the band in his regular BBC broadcast.
Sam has led bands at most of the best-known venues in the UK including Ronnie Scotts, Pizza Express Dean Street and Kings Place. As a sideman he has performed with musicians including Ray Warleigh and Anita Wardell and has appeared on many albums, including the critically well received album ‘Road Ahead’ by Duncan Eagles/Mark Perry. He has been the pianist of choice for US touring musicians including Arun Luthra (tour in 2012), Leah Gough-Cooper (‘LOCUS’ tour in 2013/ upcoming 2015 tour) and Cameron Outlaw (The Outlaw Collective – tour in 2011).
Sam has composed a number of extended suites for various ensembles including: his big band, a quintet that features musicians such as George Crowley and Jon Scott, and a piano duet with US pianist Dan Tepfer. He also co-leads a heavy-touring quartet with saxophonist Alex Merritt, and another piano duet with Richard Fairhurst.
Outside of his profession as a musician he is undertaking a part-time PhD in Music Cognition at Cambridge University where he is investigating the cognitive processes that underpin the aural learning activities of Jazz musicians.
‘Multi-faceted and smart as a pin, this is poetic chamber Jazz of a very high order’ – MOJO Magazine