After winning awards and critical acclaim in the Broadway smash hit Hamilton: An American Musical, Leslie Odom Jr. could have done anything. Doors opened, opportunities arose, but it is sharing his love for jazz that has taken the spotlight. He recorded an album of jazz standards and show tunes while still appearing on stage, eight shows a week. The self-titled album was released last year and Leslie Odom, Jr., the original Aaron Burr in Hamilton, has been touring in support of the record ever since. On Friday, August 4, he will make his debut at the Newport Jazz Festival presented by Natixis Global Asset Management.
Odom is an enormously talented crossover star. When he burst onto the scene as the rapping, dancing founding father, the New York Times called him "suavely brooding." The role made him a Tony and Grammy Award winner, but before that he was already a known TV actor and club performer. Odom, 35, was born in Queens, N.Y., grew up in Philadelphia and was a musical theater prodigy. He appeared in Rent on Broadway when he was just 17 while attending Philadelphia's High School for Creative and Performing Arts. After graduating with honors from the School of Drama at Pittsburgh's Carnegie Mellon University, he acted on television as Sam Strickland in TV's Smash for two seasons and had a recurring role as Reverend Curtis Scott on Law & Order: SVU. Soon to conquer the big screen, Odom recently filmed a remake of Murder on the Orient Express with a star-studded cast that includes Dame Judi Dench and Johnny Depp, due in theaters in November.
But, being an original star of Hamilton, first when it was off-Broadway and continuing with the show to the Great White Way as Burr, the founding father who shot Alexander Hamilton in a fatal duel, propelled Odom into a different stratosphere all together. Yet it was back to his roots he went. Honey-voiced Odom created an emotionally resonant album of standards with relentless appeal. In much the same way as he broke with tradition by being an African-American cast as Aaron Burr, Odom's music crosses boundaries. This summer he will appear at festivals, in concert halls, but also with the Boston and San Diego Symphony Orchestras. His universal appeal is undeniable.
“Leslie Odom Jr.,” the 10-song album, features the classic "Look for the Silver Lining," which has been recorded by jazz greats from Chet Baker to Tony Bennett, as well as "Nobody Knows You (When You're Down and Out)," "Cheer Up, Charlie" from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, the South American classic, "Brazil (Aquarela do Brasil)" and "The Guilty Ones" from Broadway's Spring Awakening. This soulful collection is a different world from the sounds of Hamilton, yet it's all part of Odom's appeal.
The 2017 Newport Jazz Festival presented by Natixis Global Asset Management takes place August 4-6 at Fort Adams State Park and the International Tennis Hall of Fame at the Newport Casino. Artists include The Roots; Béla Fleck & The Flecktones; Snarky Puppy; Andra Day; Branford Marsalis Quartet; Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue; Rhiannon Giddens, Christian McBride Big Band with Special Guests; Cécile McLorin Salvant; Maria Schneider Orchestra; Hudson: Jack DeJohnette, Larry Grenadier, John Medeski & John Scofield; Maceo Parker; Vijay Iyer & Wadada Leo Smith and many more. For more information and tickets to the Newport Jazz Festival, visit www.newportjazz.org.
Newport Festivals Foundation was founded by George Wein in 2010 to build and continue the legacies of the famed Newport Jazz Festival and Newport Folk Festival. Under the auspices of the Foundation, the festivals present performers who respect and honor jazz and folk music traditions and at the same time reflect the changes in today's musical trends. The Educational Initiatives of the Foundation aim to foster opportunity, inspire through exposure and facilitate the collection of resources needed for musicians, emerging and established, to celebrate and innovate. For more information visit www.newportfestivalsfoundation.org.