Les DeMerle, world-renowned drummer, clinician, bandleader, Founder and Artistic Director of The Amelia Island Jazz Festival toured and recorded with the Harry James Big Band from 1970 to 1982. One of those recordings, The King James Version, won a Grammy Award. Les toured for three years and recorded with Wayne Newton, also toured and recorded with the Manhattan Transfer, and has appeared with many other musical greats including David Sanborn, Lou Rawls, Sammy Davis, Jr., Frank Sinatra, Mel Tormé and Joe Williams. In addition, Les and Bonnie have shared the stage with numerous stars including Diana Krall, George Benson, Al Jarreau, Tito Puente, The Neville Brothers, Grover Washington, Jr., Ramsey Lewis, Houston Person, Bria Skonberg, Nestor Torres, Roseanna Vitro, Jamil Sharif and Delfeayo Marsalis.
SEE ALSO https://heidisjazzclub.com/musicians/bonnie-eisele for wife and artist Bonnie Eisele
Les DeMerle, a native of Brooklyn, NY, launched his career as drummer for jazz vibraphone great, Lionel Hampton. He then toured for 12 years with jazz trumpet master, Harry James, and recorded three albums with him including the Grammy Award winning, King James Version. Les’ own jazz/rock/fusion band, Transfusion, recorded five award-winning LPs. He has toured with Manhattan Transfer and appeared with such musical greats as Lou Rawls, Sammy Davis, Jr., Frank Sinatra, Mel Tormé, and Joe Williams. A resident of Amelia Island since 1991, Les continues to perform at concerts, festivals and Jazz cruises with his trio, quartet and Dynamic Les DeMerle Big Band Orchestra featuring Bonnie Eisele, which has recorded 13 CD’s including their new recording, “Feelin’ Good”, an Origin Records release.
As an author, Les has written two best-selling educational drum books: Jazz/Rock Fusion, Volumes I and II, published by Hal Leonard. Additionally he produced a two-part instructional drum video, Jazz Drumset Applications, Parts I and II, to impart his extensive knowledge to drummers around the world. He extends his teachings via private lessons and ongoing appearances at drum clinics nationwide.
In 2001 Les’s longtime dream of creating a diversified jazz festival on Amelia Island came to fruition. He and his wife Bonnie produced the festival for three years prior to its incorporation as a non-profit 501(c)3 tax exempt organization. Since then, with the help of generous sponsors and hardworking volunteers, the Amelia Island Jazz Festival has grown into an event which attracts major jazz artists and attendees from across the country. But Les insists there will be much more. “We’re still in our infancy,” he says, “and we expect to continue towards our goal of building the festival into a nationally recognized annual event.”
“Les DeMerle is the best all-around drummer I’ve ever had, and that’s saying a lot when you remember that Buddy Rich and Louis Bellson manned that post before him.”
–Harry James, World famous trumpeter and bandleader