Thanks for stopping by. Here’s the hub for my musical activity. This is a new version of mikeleejazz.com that was rebuilt in February of 2018. I’m promising to provide more content than ever including newsletters, video, blog posts about jazz and improvisation. My calendar will keep all of my music related itinerary easily accessible, and soon we’ll be offering downloads and hard copies of my new CD! Header photo by Kelvin Slade, photographer extraordinaire.
One crazy thing about this quarantine life is that we’re all feeling it. We might be tempted to feel sorry for ourselves, but no-one is immune from the effects. News today about another dear friend passing breaks the spell of this isolated world. Spending my days playing music with my wife and children is a dream come true, but it is spoiled by the horrific nightmare that rages on around us.
Here are several recent videos family videos from the last month of quarantine. From my family to yours.
In light of our current state of isolation due to Covid-19. A lot of us are having more time to practice. Here is my recent YouTube post about 5 elements around which you can organize your daily practice. This is directed primarily towards improvising saxophonists, but will hopefully be useful for all musicians. Take a listen!
Peter Lin is an exceptional trombonist and budding entrepreneur. Since he came on the scene over a decade ago as a student at William Paterson he has distinguished himself as a forward thinking contributor to the jazz community. I was so honored that he asked to interview me as part of his jazz business series produced by his company, Yardbird Suite Entertainment.
This was done on March 10th, just a few days before we all went into isolation because of Covid -19. The last segment about “Mike’s perfect day” is a little too prophetic. I didn’t mean like this! This interview was a long one. We’ve known each other for so long, there was so much to talk about and Peter let me talk! I was surprised with what came out of my own mouth. The interview is indexed so you can bounce around to topics that interest you (See below the video). Enjoy.
Jazz Biz 101 welcomes jazz saxophonist Mike Lee for a deep conversation about the life of a working jazz musician, educator, jam session host, and most importantly, a parent. Lots of takeaways here including moving, parenting, changing your teaching attitude, giving vs. taking, finding and giving value, jam session vibes, and tips on creating newsletters. Be sure to check the index below to jump to sections that apply to you! Be sure to check out Mike Lee’s Official Website to see his extensive bio: https://mikeleejazz.com
Remember to like, comment, share, and subscribe to keep this going! *Watch until the end to see a surprise 😉 🎧
Index: 00:00:39 – Mike Lee’s Bio & Current Projects 00:02:28 – Cleveland, Ohio to New York City to New Jersey 00:05:36 – How To Prepare For New York 00:06:50 – Memories of Jams At Star Cafe 00:08:28 – What To Expect In New York 00:09:30 – How Mike Lee Became A Jazz Parent 00:10:42 – Julian Lee’s Story 00:12:57 – Matthew Lee’s Story 00:15:00 – Jacquie Lee’s Story 00:17:20 – On Jazz Parenting 00:20:31 – Giving vs. Taking 00:21:25 – Roy Hargrove, John Lee, & Networking 00:23:58 – Ego, Empowerment Through Taking Action, Blaming External Factors 00:27:19 – How To Get Ahead In Business (Taking Responsibility From Feedback) 00:29:13 – Serving & Providing Value For Audience, Music, & History 00:31:37 – Performances Motivates Education 00:33:35 – Cultivating Next Generation For Jazz 00:34:47 – Changing Your Teaching Attitude 00:38:50 – Teaching Is Contributing 00:45:45 – First Time Experience As An Adjunct Professor 00:48:37 – Mike’s History On Jam Sessions 00:50:45 – Reversing Negative Thoughts on Jam Sessions 00:59:26 – Challenging Yourself At Jam Sessions 01:01:15 – Put Yourself In The Leader’s Shoes 01:06:10 – Tips On Newsletters (MailPoet through WordPress) 01:09:13 – Creating Value For Your Audience 01:11:32 – Mike Lee’s Definition Of Success 01:15:44 – Mike Lee’s Perfect Day
I’m finding that running from gig to rehearsal to gig to concert every day is something that requires endurance. That endurance can expand with regular use. There’s not much time to reflect on what just happened or what’s coming up next week. Even less time to blog or post. All my energy lately has been focused on what is in front of me today. But I’m taking advantage of a temporary lull in action to post about some particularly exciting performances before heading out to drop my daughter at her gig on the way to the first of my two gigs this evening.
Let me start with Bemelman’s bar with Loston Harris and Gianluca Renzi. Even thought this is my “regular hotel gig,” it’s so much more. We play improvised music based in American Songbook for several hours three to five nights a week. This is an amazing opportunity for musical development. Loston and Gianluca are young masters and challenge me constantly. We also have been traveling the globe with this band when we’re not holding court at the famed Carlyle Hotel. Catch us on Dec 19, 20th, 26th, 27th, 28th, and 31st – the end of our Fall run.
This Saturday, December 21st, I am truly excited to be performing again with the Roy Hargrove Tribute Big Band at the Jazz Gallery. This was the venue where we played the final two Roy Hargrove Big Band gigs before he tragically died last year. Roy was one of the true greats who passed way too soon. This band will reflect Roy’s expansive vision and brilliant repertoire.
This Sunday, December 22nd, I’m thrilled to play trio with my bandmate from Loston Harris’ Trio, Gianluca Renzi on Bass with Anwar Marshall on Drums at the Bar Next Door in Greenwich Village
Next Thursday, December 26th, my son Julian Lee, bassist Chris Berger, and drummer Alvester Garnett will be hosting my weekly gig at Montclair Social Club. Please note it will be on THURSDAY night rather than our usual Wednesday night.
Friday January 3rd, Loston Harris Trio plays Scullers in Boston.
We’re now in our fourth month of Wednesday nights at Montclair Social Club. It’s interesting to hold my weekly gig and jam session at such an upscale place. We are really tasked with making the jam session consumable by their already substantial regular customer base. So the mission for Wednesdays is three fold. 1) present a high level house band set with international artists, 2) provide a space for younger musicians to play with and hang out with the master musicians who stop by every week 3) bring in new listeners from the sophisticated crowd who love the great food, cocktails and stylish decor of the Montclair Social Club.
So far so good. We have really built up a new scene which blends perfectly with this great venue. To keep the flow through the holidays, we are moving the event to Thursday night on December 26th and Jan 2nd. Then we’ll be back to Wednesday nights for 2020. If you haven’t stopped by yet. Please join the fun during this holiday season.
Master drummer and producer, Lenny White turns 70 today, December 19th. I’ve been an admirer of Lenny’s since I started listening to jazz. He appears on many albums that have been influential to me. About five years ago I started playing with him in Wallace Roney’s Orchestra and we did several Wallace Roney Quintet gigs together as well. He plays on my newest CD “A Song For All of Us” and has done several gigs supporting this project.
This January Lenny celebrates his milestone birthday with two weekends of performances at Made In New York Jazz Club in Brooklyn. He as a different band each night. I’m beyond excited to be performing with him on January 5th (sets at 6:00 pm and 8:00 pm). We’ll be featuring music from my CD on this evening along with Ed Howard, Dave Stryker, and, of course, Lenny White. Check out the full schedule of bands that will be performing for this landmark run of gigs. Other musicians featured will be Buster Williams, Christian McBride, Chris Potter, Dave Liebman, and other luminaries.
I’m very excited to present my “Family Band” this Father’s Day, Sunday, June 16th for a special brunch performance at the beautiful Jazz Standard Jazz Club on Manhattan’s East Side. We will be featuring music from my new release – “Song For All of Us” and presenting each of my children, Julian (saxophone), Matthew (drums), and even a cameo/debut from my youngest Jacqueline on violin. We will be joined by two members of our larger musical family – Ed Howard on bass and Brandon McCune on piano.
“It’s a family affair”at Jazz Standard when we present Mike Lee in a special Fathers Day brunch performance. Originally from Cleveland OH, the saxophonist has led a thriving career in the New York City/Northern New Jersey area for several decades, balancing his steady gig schedule with a distinguished teaching résumé. He’s been a valued contributor to the Jimmy Heath Orchestra, the Oliver Lake Big Band, the Dizzy Gillespie Orchestra, and the Nat Adderley Jr. Quartet, among other outfits. Mike is married to violinist Rebecca Harris-Lee, and this engagement will feature their musically gifted offspring Julian Lee (tenor sax), Jacquie Lee (violin), and Matt Lee (drums). Mike Lee – saxophone Julian Lee – tenor saxophone Jacquie Lee – violin Brandon McCune – piano Ed Howard – bass Matt Lee – drums
As we move into our second month at the Brown Bear Pub in West Orange, we are excited that our brilliant friend, Bruce Williams, saxophonist, band leader, and martial arts practitioner will bless our home grown jam session as guest host for the evening bringing along two sensational veterans to round out the house trio: Howard Franklin on drums and Ryan Berg on bass. Let’s show our support for this fledgeling session – and bring your axe!
Wednesday June 12 Brown Bear Pub – 104 Harrison Avenue ● West Orange, NJ ● 07052 973-736-3355 House Band 8:00 pm Jam session 9:00 pm until 11:45 pm
Bruce Williams – Alto Saxophone Ryan Berg – Bass Howard Franklin – Drums
Tuesday June 18– We’re back! After two fantastic gigs with this forward thinking group in April, Frank Lacy Septet returns to Smalls Jazz Club NYC. New music penned by Frank Lacy and reworking of Henry Threadgill’s sextet music. Come see his genius in action. Frank Lacy, trombone/trumpet – Mike Lee, woodwinds – Brian Simontacchi, trombone – Akua Dixon, cello – James Robbins, bass – Wen-ting Wu, drums – Brandon Lewis, drums. Smalls Jazz Club|183 West 10th Street|New York City, New York| Smalls does not take reservations – it is a first come/first serve admission policy. Cover:$20 Per Set $10 Students Sets at 10:30 and Midnight.
Five nights this week (Tuesday through Saturday) I will be performing with the Great Loston Harris at Bemelman’s Bar. This is an amazing experience. Please come out and mingle with celebrities as we explore the magic of the Great American Songbook.
Loston Harris Trio at Bemelman’s Bar at the Carlyle Hotel 35 East 76th St., New York, New York 10021 T: +1 212 744 1600 Tuesday – Saturday June 11 – 15 Loston Harris – piano and vocals Mike Lee – Saxophone Gianluca Renzi – Bass 9:30 pm until 12:30 am (1:00 pm Fri & Sat)
What follow is a reprint of a post I made back in December about the gig with Loston:
For the past six years I’ve been playing regularly in the Loston Harris Trio. I started subbing in the band at Bemelman’s bar at the Carlyle Hotel and then doing most of the band’s road work and finally becoming the regular saxophonist about three years ago. I’m surprised that even though I play about 80 gigs a year with Loston,many people with whom I interact often aren’t aware of this trio or our regular venue – Bemelman’s Bar at the Carlyle Hotel on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. Here’s the low-down:
Loston is brilliant. As a pianist he is exceptional – Early in his career he toured and recorded with Wynton Marsalis. On our instrumental selections he plays with fire and technical facility that would rival any pianist. As a vocalist he is sublime with a deep affinity for Frank Sinatra and Nat King Cole. He deals with the nuance of lyrics and standard repertoire with a professionalism and ease that makes him one of the brightest stars of jazz and the American Songbook.
The gig at Bemelman’s Bar is magical. Named in honor of Ludwig Bemelmans, the creator of the classic Madeline children’s books, the club features his artwork on the walls and even on the lampshades at your table. We play jazz. We play some instrumental tunes every set from Thelonious Monk, Benny Golson, Dave Brubeck and many others. The vocal selections also can have long solo sections where we stretch and “work it out” on the gig. We’re set up in the middle of the room where we are part of the crowd. The crowd is part of the atmosphere. Movie stars, musical celebrities, political figures show up with great regularity. By no stretch is this a “listening” room, but every night we “win” the room by turning the boisterous crowd into an appreciative audience. It feels like a throwback to the 1930’s with an adoring crowd cheering, shouting, and having great merriment.
This is a musically demanding situation. I’ve learned more from this gig than any other gig or situation in my life. Playing night after night, learning the ins and outs of so much amazing repertoire with two inventive intelligent, enthusiastic band mates (the great Gianluca Renzi plays bass!) has caused me to dig deeper and hear more music than I ever thought I would at this advanced stage of my career. There is no teacher like a nightly gig. Playing at Bemelman’s 3, 4, or 5 nights a week for two and a half months twice a year has been a revelation.
It’s not cheap. There is a $25 cover weeknights and $35 on the weekends ($15 at the bar) and the drinks are expensive. But I feel every music fan needs to see this place at least once to see music in close proximity to a real engaged crowd.