Although his first fascination was the player piano he soon started playing the flute becoming very involved in school bands. After considerable listening and practicing where he first surprised and pleased such local legends as T McGee Terry Camon Leri Carter Billy Haddon and Mel Washington.
Having mentors both assist and encourage Bradley and a true love of performing served as the catalysts for his decision to pursue a career in music. Immediately after high school he seized an opportunity by enlisting and playing in the Army's 9th Infantry Division band at Ft. Lewis Washington. When his talent quickly became obvious he was appointed musical director of the jazz ensemble. A tour with the 8th Army band in Seoul Korea soon followed. Bradley remained in Seoul after his discharge several years later to teach and perform in the country's only Jazz bar.
But after realizing that the only place to really utilize his musical expertise was the land of his birth Bradley returned to Seattle for more professional opportunities. By now an accomplished musician and teacher he spent the next fifteen years playing in rhythm and blues bands Hammond organ trios funk dance bands and straight-ahead jazz groups. He also taught privately working with encouraging young musicians just as his Seattle mentors had done for him.
At the same time he focused on developing his own sound on the flute. His approach was born in his big band roots where accomplished reedman took their saxophone experience to the flute. Inspired by such legends as Frank Wess and Sam Most Bradley found that the alto flute was the best vehicle for his creativity.
During this period he worked in bands that accompanied such legendary artists as Bobby McFerrin Clark Terry Dizzy Gillespie and Patti Kim in addition to jamming and playing with all the local musicians. He became Seattle's first call flutist and developed a reputation as one of the leading players in the area.
In the last five years he decided to start making his own recordings and performing with his own group. In 2001 Bradley relocated to San Diego and in 2003 released his first solo CD "Groove Yard" with "Just Doing Our Thang" the followup that arrived this spring. "Thang" features his flute in a unique setting in collaboration with a Hammond B-3 organ trio.
The response to "Groove Yard" was not surprisingly very strong. Derek Winterberg of the thesmoothjazzsite.com wrote "this is straight-ahead jazz for the smooth and contemporary jazz set. His selections definitely have the unmistakable energy and improvisation that marks it as straight-ahead but is so warm and inviting that it would be appropriate to have it playing while you"re romanticizing that special someone in your life."
And for "Thang" La Jazz Scene wrote "with the kind of cool mood that brought us Herbie Mann and Hubert Laws Pacific Coast Jazz introduces Bradley Leighton a flutist who combines groove with soul."
In addition to recording and performing Bradley Leighton has continued to share his knowledge and enthusiasm of music as a clinician and teacher. Besides private lessons he leads workshops for musicians of all skill levels including "Jazz Improvisation for the Classically Trained Flutist" and "Music For Life - Improvisation for the Adult Amateur Musician." He is also a Yahama Performing Artist.
Bradley's music education theory is simple: "We need to make music fun again… Let's not get bogged down with the technique and theory - that's too much like calculus and physics to most students. Instead we should be teaching the skills that our students will use to express their own musical ideas for the rest of their lives."
One participant Gerry Presor of Bradley's Rancho Penasquitos Flute Choir believes that "Bradley's teaching method gently guided me from trepidation in the morning to triumph in the evening - backed by a live rhythm section. What a blast! Having taken this first step I feel much more confident in expressing myself musically." See more on the Rancho Penasquitos Flute Choir at the Music page.
Bradley performs at various venues in the San Diego area and donates a vast portion of his musical time to support local and out of town philanthropic events. He's also available for clinics studio work back up and in performance with his Duo Quartet and Sextet as well as a soloist for big bands and orchestras. He heads up the Rancho Penasquitos Flute Choir and he's a member at large of the San Diego Flute Guild.'