DALLAS – Leon Breeden, legendary director of the University of North Texas’ jazz program who made its One O’Clock Lab Band internationally famous, died Wednesday at the age of 88.

Breeden died at St. Paul Hospital in Dallas of complications from a widespread abdominal infection, said longtime friend Richard Cox said.

Under Breeden’s direction, the One O’Clock Band — named for its rehearsal time — became the first college band to receive a Grammy nomination and to perform at the White House.

“The prestige that jazz enjoys today is due in large measure to the work of Leon Breeden and other educators of his generation who had to work hard to bring jazz into the university music curriculum,” said John Murphy, chairman of the University of North Texas’ Division of Jazz Studies. “Leon Breeden’s legacy at UNT includes a dedication to fostering students’ creativity by making their creative work as soloists, composers and arrangers the centerpiece of our performances and recordings.”

Breeden’s students included future jazz pianist and composer Lyle Mays and veteran studio musicians and sidemen “Blue Lou” Marini and Marvin Stamm.

Breeden was born in Guthrie, Okla., on Oct. 3, 1921, and grew up in Wichita Falls, Texas. After serving in World War II, he became the band director at Texas Christian University. He spent most of the 1950s as a high school band director, before taking the job at what was then known as North Texas State University in 1959.

From then until his retirement in 1981, Breeden led the One O’Clock Lab Band in performances around the world, including a 1967 White House performance in which the band shared billing with Duke Ellington and Stan Getz.

He also began the band’s tradition of recording an album annually. During his tenure, the band earned its first two Grammy nominations — one for “Lab ’75” and another for “Lab ’76.”

Also under his leadership, the band performed at the prestigious Montreux International Jazz Festival in Switzerland and toured Germany, Mexico, Portugal and the Soviet Union.

Breeden befriended band leader Stan Kenton, who bequeathed his orchestra library to UNT. Breeden also built a reputation as a clarinetist, saxophonist, arranger and composer.


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.