ProMusica Soirée

Leslie Odom, Jr., vocalist
David Danzmayr, conductor


In addition to high profile film and television roles, Leslie Odom, Jr. remains world-renowned for his Tony® Award- and GRAMMY® Award-winning turn as Aaron Burr in Hamilton. However, the singer, actor, and performer insists the best way to get to know him is by listening to his music…

“As a musician, I’m in charge of the vision. It’s the one space where I’m not playing a character. It’s the most honest version of myself that I get to present in the entertainment world. I don’t have to wait for a script or lines to be written for me. I can just get my band together, come up with a setlist, hit the stage, and perform for people.”

It’s no surprise that Leslie references music as “his first love.” Growing up in Philadelphia, he fondly recalls listening to his mom sing “This Little Light of Mine” and “You Are My Sunshine” to calm him or his baby sister. Soon after, he immersed himself in his parents’ vinyl stash, consuming the work of Marvin Gaye, The Temptations, Peabo Bryson, and many others. By serendipity, he also discovered Broadway via the Dreamgirls cast album among that discography.

“Mom and dad wanted to make sure I wasn’t just listening to Bobby Brown and Color Me Badd,” he laughs. “My folks imparted their appreciation for vintage soul and classic R&B. They never had a lot of money to give, but music was the best inheritance I could’ve ever asked for. That was something they handed down with a lot of love and intention.”

Galvanized by early performances, Leslie boldly auditioned for Rent at just 16-years-old. He landed a slot and Broadway and that first high-profile gig kicked off a whirlwind acting career that saw him appear in Lucasfilm’s 2012 Red Tails on the big screen as well as in recurring television roles on SmashPerson of InterestLaw & Order: Special Victims Unit, and many others. In 2015, he landed the role of a lifetime with Burr in Hamilton. As Hamilton became a game-changing cultural phenomenon, he earned a Tony® Award as “Best Actor in a Musical” and a GRAMMY® as a principal singer on the cast album in the “Best Musical Theater Album” category.

Along the way, he met producer Joseph Abate who would become instrumental in his artistic journey. The thought of eventually making a record had been in the back of Leslie’s mind for a long time but Abate helped make it a reality.

“I was a fan of the record Joseph produced for his wife Eden Espinosa,” he goes on. “I thought it was so beautiful. It was so pro, and she was an independent artist. I was like, ‘If you can make my project look and sound like that, I’m down.’ That was a big reason why I finally jumped into making something. It was a chance to take charge of my artistic life.”

That’s what he did on his self-titled solo debut Leslie Odom, Jr. Showcasing the versatile range of his potent, poignant, and powerhouse voice, the collection quickly exceeded its Kickstarter goal in 2014, bowed at #1 on the Billboard Top Jazz Albums Chart upon impact two years later, and earned praise from The New York Times who wrote, “This covers collection is elegant and warm, exceedingly mannered but also keenly felt. This season, Odom and Abate have updated their 2016 holiday release, Simply Christmas [S-Curve Records], with an expanded edition including five additional recordings for 2017. Produced by Abate, the final 13-track collection represents a cohesive vision for the performer.  Beyond staples such as “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” and “First Noel,” he broadens the scope of Simply Christmas with stunning new additions. Leslie’s spirit shines through a tender rendition of The Who’s rare holiday anthem, “Christmas.” Meanwhile, he flexes his voice into bombastic territory with a show-stopping rendition of “Please Come Home For Christmas,” bringing “some wallop to the tracklist,” as he puts it. Then, there’s a heartwarming duet on “Edelweiss” carried by Leslie and his wife Nicolette Robinson, marking their first official shared recording.

“We’ve been singing ‘Edelweiss’ to our daughter since she was in the womb,” he beams. “We had to include this one. It meant so much all through Nicolette’s pregnancy and even now. My wife is one of my favorite voices on the planet. If one of us is singing ‘Edelweiss’ at home, the other will join in immediately. Plus, I’ll get to pull her on stage if she’s in town when I’m on tour!”

Simply Christmas ignites the next chapter for Leslie. With the release of Murder on the Orient Express in theaters everywhere, an upcoming PBS Special, an album in 2018, music is still the best way to get close to him.

“When people listen to any of my albums or songs, I hope they hear quality first. I hope they hear something tastefully made. I hope they hear love and attention to detail at the center. We respect them. We respect our audiences and we appreciate their time and support. We don’t want them to feel they’ve wasted either.”