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    Pendarvis, Leon (16 November 1945 – Present)

    Arranger, producer, multi-instrumentalist and songwriter from South Carolina whose mother taught him to play the piano.  In college, he learned how to play a variety of instruments, and he eventually added electric bass, tenor saxophone, and trumpet to his repertoire. 


    In 1969, he relocated to The Big Apple.  One of the first records he appeared on was Eugene McDaniels’ “The Lord is Back”, backed with “Tell Me Mr. President”.  Leon played the piano.  Throughout his recording career, he reverted to the piano and other keyboard instruments. 


    In 1972, he multitasked on Universal Jones Vol. 1, arranging, conducting, and playing bass and electric piano.  Another example of his versatility is Alphonse Mouzon’s Funky Snakefoot, on which he played acoustic piano, electric piano, organ, and Wurlitzer.  He got his first taste of gold with 1974’s “Feel Like Makin’ Love” by Aretha Franklin, which he helped produce.  In 1975, he played keyboards on Feel Like Makin’ Love by Roberta Flack and Disco Baby and The Disco Kid by Van McCoy, and joined the original Saturday Night Live band, with whom he has performed for more than three decades. 


    He reunited with Van McCoy on 1976’s African Symphony, The Real McCoy, and Rhythms of the World.  In 1977, he played keyboards on Van McCoy and His Magnificent Movie Machine.  This was followed up by My Favourite Fantasy in 1978.  Leon has even performed with The Muppets:  He arranged, conducted and played keyboards on Sesame Disco! and Sesame Street Fever.  In 1979, he performed arranging duties on Stuff’s third album, Stuff It!. 


    He opened the new decade with Terumasa Hino on Daydream, arranging, conducting, playing the Oberheim, Rhodes Piano, and Steinway Piano, and writing “Goin’ for the Gold”, and “Sweeter & Sweeter”, with then-wife, Janice Pendarvis.  In 1981, he arranged Andy Gibb’s and Victoria Principal’s remake of “All I Have to Do is Dream” and worked with Diana Ross on another retro effort, Why Do Fools Fall in Love. 


    He rejoined Terumasa Hino in 1982 on Pyramid.  In 1983, he played the Hammond B-3 Organ on An Innocent Man by Billy Joel and orchestrated the music for the Broadway play, Peg.  He arranged and played synthesizer on Denice Williams’ Let’s Hear it for the Boy in 1984.  The album contained several Leon compositions, including “Blind Dating”, “Don’t Tell Me We Have Nothing”, “Picking up the Pieces”, and “Wrapped Up”. 


    In 1985, he was in charge of additional orchestrations for the Broadway production, The News.  He went from stage to screen in 1986, scoring America and orchestrating music for Pretty in Pink.  In the late ‘80s, he set up his own studio and did the arrangements for Eric Clapton’s August and Crossroads and the drum programming and production work on Laurie Anderson’s Strange Angels. 


    He performed on Live in Montreux with Stuff and live in Lugano with The Blues Brothers Band in 1990.  In 1992, The Blues Brothers Band released Red, White & Blues.  Leon performed in concert with Donald Fagen at New York City’s Lone Star Roadhouse in January 1993.  In 1994, The Blues Brothers Band performed “B Movie Boxcar Blues” live in New Orleans, Louisiana.  G.E. Smith & the Saturday Night Live Band released Get a Little in 1995. 


    In 1996, Leon he played organ on the DVD, Buddy Guy with G.E. Smith and the Saturday Night Live Band:  Live – The Real Deal.  He did the same on B.B. King’s 1997 album, Deuces Wild.  In 1998, The Blues Brothers Band performed “Funky Nassau” in Antibes and “Can’t Turn You Loose”, “Midnight Hour”, and “You Can’t Play the Blues in an Air-Conditioned Room” in Cannes, France.  The Saturday Night Live Band was featured in the Andy Kaufman biopic, Man on the Moon, in 1999. 


    Leon and fellow Blues Brothers band-mate, Steve Cropper, performed with Tommy McDonnell at the 2000 NBA All-Star Game.  In 2001, Leon played electric piano and Hammond organ and arranged the strings on John Phillips’ Phillips 66.  He joined Cornell Dupree, Sam Moore, Bernard “Pretty” Purdie, and Chuck Rainey for a concert at New York’s B.B. King’s on 23rd October 2002.  In 2003, he married singer, Jillian Armsbury. 


    He performed “Rhythm & Blues by the Brook” on 10th June 2006 with an all-star cast that included Steve Cropper, Roberta Flack, “Blue Lou” Marini, Bernard “Pretty Purdie”, and Phoebe Snow.  In 2007, he arranged and conducted some of the music on The Best Damn Thing by Avril Lavigne.  He performed similar duties on Leona Lewis’s 2008 album, Spirit. 


    In 2009. Jillian Pendarvis shuffled off this mortal coil, succumbing to cancer.  Her memory, along with many others’, was honoured at the International Symposium on Malignant Mesothelioma in Washington, D.C. 


    In 2010, Leon again served as arranger and conductor on Katie Perry’s Teenage Dream and performed at the FIFA World Cup Kick-Off Concert.


    Van McCoy recordings

    The Shuffle (Van McCoy)

    That’s the Joint (Richard Harris/Van McCoy)



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