multi-instrumentalist, composer, producer, and masterful creative improvisational performer from Detroit


Rafael Leafar is a rare multi-instrumentalist who can combine great passion, intellectual discipline, and a spiritual fire that is evocative of great artistic creativity. 

He has established himself as a remarkable composer and musician not defined by any one particular genre or style. 

Rafael Leafar has had the greatest privilege of sharing the performance space among some of greatest creative artists and musicians on the scene today including:

The 7x grammy (4x emmy) awarded bassist, Robert Hurst III;

Jazz Master, Reggie Workman (bassist of John Coltrane & Art Blakey);

Drum legend, Jeff “Tain” Watts;

NEA Jazz Master, Jimmy Owens

Detroit Trumpet Legend, Marcus Belgrave

Grammy Awarded Producer, musician (saxophone and piano), Kamau Kenyatta;

Drummer / producer, Greg Hutchinson, and 

Detroit experimental hip-hop producer, Sterling Toles, to name a few.

Hailing from Detroit, Michigan, Rafael's connection to music was jazz, R&B and soul, fostered from a musical family at an early age. 

His parents gave an immeasurable amount of time and energy to make sure could have the opportunity to go to decent schools, often back and forth from suburban education to artist opportunities in the urban Detroit area, that would eventually prove fruitful despite the metro Detroit challenges throughout the 1990's and 2000's. 

Rafael attended and graduated from prestigious institutions such as Detroit School of Arts, Detroit Symphony Civic Jazz Orchestra, and The New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music. 

In the midst of education, Rafael often played with notable influences such as Robert Hurst Group (2011-current), Marcus Belgrave (Toledo Art Museum 2010), Vincent Chandler Septet (2009-2010), Jeff Tain Watts Drum Club (Detroit Jazz Festival 2011) and often appearances as a leader on the Detroit music scene since 2009.

Leafar thrilled the audience during the nation’s best centennial celebration (according to Dr. Robin D. G. Kelly, the definitive biographer of T.S. Monk) of Thelonious Monk at The Wright in October 2017. 

He recently led the Leafar Quintet to perform the music of John Coltrane on his birthday at the Charles H. Wright Music of African American History, September 23, 2018. He performed with James Carter and the Carter Brothers Band January 3, 2019 to a packed audience at The Wright.