Max Leake has been a part of jazz piano in Pittsburgh since the 1970s. He began his musical training at age six. By the time he was 15, he was working with local Pittsburgh bands and backing up national acts in local supper clubs. At the age of 18, Max was traveling around the country with acts such as the “Ink Spots” and the “Marcels”.
Max spent time playing in show-bands in the Catskill Mountains of New York backing up variety acts, comedians and singers. He also cruised around the Western hemisphere as a house pianist in the showbands on many different Princess Cruises ships.
In 1985 he released his self-produced album “Buns in the Sun” on Visionary Records, a record label started by Max and Mike Hurzon (owner of the “Tracking Station”, an independent record promotion company). The album drew widespread airplay nationally and was reviewed favorably by many newspapers and trade publications.
Max has gone on to produce, compose for and record with dozens of other artists including Mesa Blue Moon recording artist “Tim Eyermann and East Coast Offering”, Heads Up records artist “Kenny Blake”, “Salsamba”, “Billy Price” and the “Balcony Big Band” on Corona Records.
Max has been recording, composing, arranging and performing for 35 years with some of the best jazz and blues artists in the world including Roger Humphries, Stanley Turrentine, Rick Margitza, Dwayne Dolphin, Henry Johnson, Rebecca Parris, Billy Price, Joe Negri, Sandy Staley, the Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild Orchestra, Tommy Tedesco, David “Fathead” Newman, Don Latarski, Al Dowe and Etta Cox and the Balcony Big Band, just to name a few. He was voted “Best Jazz Keyboardist” in the “In Pittsburgh” music awards in 1989, 1991 and in 1995.
Max began composing and performing music for websites, videos, planetarium shows and CD-ROMs for various advertising and multimedia production companies with his own home-based music production company. He is currently a multimedia developer for the WISER Institute, which is a medical simulation education facility and actively performs, composes, arranges and produces for live performances, multimedia, and recordings.
As of January of 2017, Max is an adjunct professor at the Mary Pappert School of Music at Duquesne University. He also is the musical director for the actress, producer, and vocalist Tamara Tunie.
In October 2019, Max was honored as a Pittsburgh Jazz Legend by Manchester Craftmen’s Guild’s jazz program, MCG Jazz. This honor is given every year to five jazz musicians from Pittsburgh, who have spent their lives performing and supporting jazz in the Pittsburgh area jazz scene.
As a sideman:
- Kenny Blake – Love I Know Your Name (1982)
- Kenny Blake – Rumor Has It, HeadsUp Records (1991)
- Kenny Blake – Interior Design (1992)
- Kenny Blake – Since You Asked, HeadsUp Records (1993)
- Billy Price – Danger Zone, Corona (1993)
- Billy Price – The Soul Collection, Corona (1997)
- Al Dowe and Etta Cox – Sunday Jam, Dowdel, (1996)
- Salsamba – Latinventions, Clave’ (1998)
- Balcony Big Band – Seasoned To Taste, Corona (1993)
- The Gathering Field – Reliance (1999)
- Bill Deasy – Spring Lies Waiting, Onoma (1999)
- Last Call at the Balcony, WDUQ Jazz (1998)
- Lisa Ferraro – Timeless (2003)
- Dwayne Dolphin – 4Robin, AAM records (2004)
- Lisa Marranaci – Waiting For Spring (2004) /w Joe Negri
- Mike Tomaro and the Three Rivers Jazz Orchestra – Night Owl Suite, Sea Breeze (2004)
- Salsamba – Brazilia, NorthStar Music (2006)
- Sandy Staley – Everything I Love, Corona (2006)
- Ken Karsh – Ventana, Alanna Records (2009)
- Lisa Ferraro – Live at Fallingwater, PranavaSonic (2009)
- Pittsburgh Jazz Legacy, MCGJazz (2010)
- Roger Humphries – Keep the Faith (2011)
- Kenny Karsh – Conversations, Alanna Records (2012)
- Don Aliquo Sr. & Don Aliquo Jr. – Fathers & Sons, MCG Jazz (2018)
- Tamara Tunie – Dreamsville, Tamra Tunie (2019)
As a leader:
- Buns In The Sun – Visionary Records (1985)
- Trios – Corona Music, (2004)