Leonard, Harlan “Mike”
- Barry Kernfeld
jazz saxophonist and bandleader, was born Harlan Quentin Leonard in Butler, Missouri, not Kansas City, as is commonly given. Nothing is known of his parents. Leonard's nickname was “Mike,” for reasons unknown. He attended public schools in Butler and Kansas City, where at age thirteen he enrolled at Lincoln High School, playing clarinet in a school band. Later he studied alto saxophone with George Wilkenson and Eric “Paul” Tremaine. He worked briefly with the bandleader George E. Lee in 1923, the year he graduated. Leonard married in the mid-1920s. His wife's name is unknown; the couple had two children.
Leonard was the lead alto saxophonist, doubling on clarinet and soprano sax, in Bennie Moten's ensemble from 1923 to late 1931 as it evolved from a small dance band into one of the pioneering jazz big bands His first recorded solo with Moten was on She ...
A version of this article originally appeared in African American National Biography.