Lawrence “Lo” Leathers, a Lansing native, was an accomplished jazz drummer. Police found him dead Sunday in New York. He was 37.
Eric Lacy, Lansing State Journal
LANSING, Mich. – An accomplished jazz musician who won two Grammy Awards has passed away.
Lawrence “Lo” Leathers was found dead by police late Sunday morning in the Bronx, New York, said Rose Cooper, his cousin. He was 37.
Cooper said police discovered Leathers’ body in the hallway of an apartment building near a stairwell.
Leathers had been living at the apartment building with 41-year-old Lisa Harris, police said. Leathers was involved in a physical altercation with Harris and another man, 28-year-old Sterling Aguilar, that led to Aguilar putting Leathers in a chokehold, according to The Associated Press.
Leathers was pronounced dead at the scene.
“We don’t have a lot of details,” Cooper said. “There’s an investigation regarding the circumstances behind that.”
Family members are hopeful officials will determine the cause of Leathers’ death later this week, Cooper said.
Leathers was born Nov. 23, 1981 in Lansing, Michigan, and took an interest in playing drums as a child.
Billionaire state of mind: Forbes names Jay-Z the first hip-hop billionaire
He attended classes at Michigan State University’s School of Music and the Julliard School in New York.
Leathers won two Grammy Awards as a member of the Aaron Diehl Trio.
He also performed as a feature artist at Small’s Jazz Club in New York and served as a guest drummer on “Harry,” Harry Connick Jr.’s talk show.
“He had such a meteoric rise ahead of him,” Cooper said of her cousin. “That’s what hurts the most to us. The world really doesn’t know what it just lost.”
Leathers grew up with a “no quit personality” that helped him defy the odds of becoming a successful musician, said Brandon Leathers, his younger brother.
Leathers decided to leave Julliard after two years of classes so he could pursue a full-time music career.
“We all felt he was out of his mind when he did that,” Brandon Leathers said. “Who quits Julliard? If anything, Julliard cuts you.
“But he said, ‘I’m better than what’s here,’ and he didn’t look back.”
Springsteen’s ‘Western Stars,’ reviewed: A hauntingly brilliant journey on the highway
While in New York, Leathers idolized several jazz musicians, including Dizzy Gillespie, Rodney Whitaker and Wynton Marsalis.
Marsalis served as a mentor and credited Lawrence Leathers for revitalizing swing music in New York, Brandon Leathers said.
Several musicians intend to participate in a memorial service for his brother, Brandon Leathers said. It’s expected to be held later this month in New York.
Thank you! You’re almost signed up for
Keep an eye out for an email to confirm your newsletter registration.
Cecile McLorin Salvant, a playing partner of Leathers’, released a tribute video on his Instagram page of the drummer at work.
Memorials also are expected to held later this year in Michigan and Paris, France, where he had a second residence.
“He was always the type of person that, no matter how successful he became, he would do all he could to give back to his community,” Brandon Leathers said.
Joe Lane, 47, was introduced to Lawrence Leathers’ musical aptitude nearly 30 years ago.
Leathers became fascinated with the drums once he saw Lane play them in a church band. Lane served as Leathers’ teacher for several years.
Summer violence spike: Chicago experiences most violent weekend of 2019: 52 shot, 10 killed
Leathers earned a spot at Julliard through hard work and a bit of luck.
Julliard officials accepted Leathers to the school after they heard his drum playing in an audition tape for another musician, Lane said.
“He was that legit!” Lane said of his former pupil’s skills. “I’ve never seen a guy pick up any instrument he wants to play and play it (well) in a week.”
In addition to Cooper and Brandon Leathers, Lawrence Leathers is survived by his father, Moses, and several aunts, uncles and cousins. Leathers was preceded in death by his mother, Carolyn.
Follow Eric Lacy on Twitter: @EricLacy.
Contributing: Jay Cannon, USA TODAY
Read or Share this story: https://www.usatoday.com/story/life/music/2019/06/03/grammy-awards-jazz-lawrence-leathers-dead/1335759001/