Lenny Carlson is one of the most creatively gifted and energetic musicians I know. As resident composer for the Cartoon Jazz Septet and Orchestra since 2009, he has written nearly 40 pieces for the two ensembles, providing us with new and exciting directions in our repertoire. Lenny’s pieces are in a broad range of styles, from Klezmer-influenced novelties in the Raymond Scott tradition to straight-ahead jazz; latin dance pieces to lush ballads. These are challenging, fun and sophisticated works for audiences and musicians alike. Besides Lenny’s fine music, his friendship and our work together is always open, with clear communication and mutual respect. It is my sincere pleasure to combine forces with Lenny Carlson.
Jeff Sanford, multi-instrumentalist, educator
Founder/Director, Jeff Sanford’s Cartoon Jazz Septet and Orchestra
There are few, if any, living composers for whom I have more respect or affection than Lenny Carlson. My years working with Lenny in San Francisco were brightened almost daily by my interaction with this witty, urbane, and always fresh-sounding master of contemporary music. As fine a guitarist as he is a writer of music, Lenny especially shines through his compositions, which are invariably smart, surprising, and completely engaging with widespread popular appeal, yet they still reflect an emotional and intellectual depth, revealing a true and thorough understanding of the human condition. My work with him in the conceptual stages of creating a large work for orchestra, chorus, and soloists on a quintessential American theme produced some of my most gratifying Bay Area musical experiences. His music is among the best you will hear anywhere and is always worth the time to explore.
Douglas E. Bish, Dean
The Music Conservatory of Westchester (NY)
I have worked with composer Lenny Carlson numerous times in both a solo and chamber music context over the last 10 years. For me as a performer, his music is challenging and engaging.
His sense of adventure in exploring new sonic landscapes is balanced with a sincere respect for the performer's expertise on their instrument. I especially enjoyed working with him while recording his solo cello commission, Hyphen Dance.
Dr. Carter Dewberry, cellist and educator
Lenny Carlson has a great knowledge of musical styles and instrumental idioms. His string quartet is well-crafted and highly polished; the music is fresh, easy to listen to, rich and engaging.
Barry Green, double bassist and author, The Inner Game of Music
Compositore Profundo! Mr. Lenny Carlson is a much-revered partner in musical crimes, for me, and has become a dear and important friend, since our meeting in 2008. A vastly broad and erudite composer, from his flagship of piano works entitled Earth Tones, so honorably inscribed to me (humblest of thanks again, Len), through his range of chamber music, music for voice, and large ensemble, Mr. Carlson elicits a full command of compositional technique through an array of styles, combined with a supremely unique and inspired compositional voice. His sources of inspiration are from just as wide a range of historical and social contexts and people, as well - both musical and non-musical - and the combination of all these render music that is not just for it's own sake, but of high quality and depth, expressively and introspectively. Molto bene, Lenny!'
Frederick Harris, pianist and educator
Lenny Carlson is a great teacher who seeks first to learn something about his students who bring their vulnerable curiosity, their life experiences, and their past achievements and disappointments to the classroom. Lenny believes that students are people first, and his role as guardian of their opportunities motivates his engagement in social justice efforts, using music as one of his tools. Because of his appreciation of history, he therefore understands the power of knowledge and how to share it in measured but flexible doses tailored to the diverse learning needs of the students. When we reflect on how much fun his classes are, we realize how much we actually have learned.
Assistant Vice-Chancellor and Director, Office of Affirmative Action
University of California San Francisco (retired)
The Box doesn't exist for Lenny Carlson. And I'm of the belief that it never did. In fact there is no shape that would be suitable to contain him. His musical thinking emanates from somewhere deep in the unexpected... yet manifests as accessible and imaginative all at once. I love working with Lenny. His intelligence on and off the fretboard is poignantly engaging and witty. Indeed some of my favorite moments during my 40 years of working as a producer/engineer have been spent trying to second guess what will come out of his guitar... and his mouth! Many tears of laughter have been shared. Lenny is deftly courageous and is someone who should be on anyone's short list of creative geniuses... just don't put him in a box!
Russell Bond, producer and engineer
Founder, The Annex Studios (Menlo Park, CA)
Lenny Carlson is a terrific composer and a dedicated musician whose artistic commitment is truly inspiring. I particularly appreciate his insight into pianistic writing. His ability to combine different genres and styles in such clever and fun ways keeps me genuinely interested in his work.
Meral Guneyman, concert pianist, educator;
I’ve known Lenny Carlson for 20 years, and have played numerous solo piano works of his in concert. He is quite prolific. One of the main things to understand about Lenny and his compositions is that he has an original “voice,” an immediately recognizable approach to the music he writes. Such originality is rare; it’s always easier to compose or perform music that sounds like someone else. Along with his clear gift for melody, Lenny makes excellent use of the rhythmic and harmonic elements present in his music. He composes in many different styles, for a wide variety of instruments and combinations, including string quartet, big jazz band and solo voice. I expect him to achieve significant notice over the coming years as he continues to produce outstanding creative work.
In addition to his skills as a musician and composer, Lenny successfully teaches many appreciative students and is a highly valued colleague both in the Music Department and the entire College. He generously helps others fulfill their departmental and institutional requirements, in particular while serving as an elected member of the District’s Academic Senate Executive Council. Lenny accomplishes his many college and musical activities with a unique balance of intense dedication and intense good humor. He is truly “upbeat!”
Madeline Mueller, pianist, educator;
Chair, Music Department, City College of San Francisco
“I have worked with Lenny on two major projects and, in both cases, found him to be focused, professional, talented, organized, and engaging. He is very passionate about music, and it shows in his performing as well as his compositions. I thoroughly enjoyed performing and recording Lenny’s music and continue to appreciate his friendly demeanor as a colleague.”
Principal 2nd Violin, Pacific Symphony