Adventures in Saxophonisity
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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.
Sunday January 5th Lenny White’s 70th birthday celebration at Made in New York Jazz Club in Brooklyn, NY. Read more about that here: https://mikeleejazz.com/2019/12/19/lenny-white-70th-birthday-celebration/
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.
Sunday June 16th, 2019
One set only: 12:30 – 2:00pm
Click Here for Reservations
“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.
The Nat Adderley Jr. Quartet just back from Austin, Texas where we performed a tribute concert to Nancy Wilson with wonderful singers from the area. Nat is an amazing musician and musical spirit. His sense of humor and generosity spill over into all facets of his personality and musicality. We will be performing repertoire from Nat’s tenure with the iconic Luther Vandross, as well as music associated with the Adderley legacy. The cover is FREE – there are even refreshments for FREE and it’s just a few minutes from the Montclair/Oranges area in the heart of Newark. Even though there is no cost, you must reserve a seat for this likely-to-be-sold-out event.
Fri, June 7, 2019
7:30 PM – 10:30 PM
15 Washington Street
Newark, NJ 07102
Clement’s Place is pleased to present music legend Nat Adderley Jr., best known for his work with the great Luther Vandross.
About this Event
Clement’s Place is pleased to present music legend Nat Adderley Jr., best known for his work with the great Luther Vandross. He wrote and arranged Luther’s first top 20 pop hit, Stop to Love and other hits, including Wait for Love, and the Grammy-nominated Give Me the Reason. Nat also arranged many of Luther’s most popular records, including Superstar, Here and Now, If Only for One Night, Creepin’, If This World Were Mine, So Amazing, There’s Nothing Better Than Love, Never Too Much, and Love Won’t Let Me Wait. Nat was Luther’s musical director from 1981 until his death.
A member of jazz royalty, (his father Nat, Sr. and his uncle Julian “Cannonball” were superstars), Nat has also lent his talents to other artists including Kirk Whalum, Natalie Cole, Johnny Gill, Aretha Franklin, Gloria Lynne, the Temptations, Ruben Studdard, Paulette McWilliams, Jaheim, and Doc Powell.
Recently, Nat has returned to his jazz roots, recording with Jay Hoggard and Nicholas Bearde and performing in clubs and festivals in New York, California, Asia, and Europe with Tom Scott, clarinetist Don Byron, Eric Darius, as well as with his own quartet and in solo performances.
Nat brings his signature blend of soul infused, swinign jazz to his Clement’s Place debut.
Don’t miss this great evening!
Free and open to the public
Seating is limited
This Wednesday at Brown Bear Pub in West Orange – our weekly jam session will featured virtuosos Billy Drummond on drums and Steve LaSpina on bass. We will play a short set at 8:00 pm and the open jam session will begin at 9:00 pm until about 11:45. This is probably the last weekly jam for a while. Due to my schedule in June and other events at the club – we will be taking a hiatus until July.
The location of this pub in West Orange – 104 Harrison Ave. – is very accessible to Montclair. It was formerly known as Egans – West Orange. The sound is great and the food is great. We hope to see lots of friends there this week.
To stay up to date on my Wednesday night jam session please join our facebook group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/mikeleejam/
June is packed with musical events with some of my favorite musicians. We’re staying local for most of the month, so if you’re in the New Jersey/New York area – please stop through to one (or more) of these gigs!
June 1 (Sat) Candlelight Lounge w/ Peter Lin 3:30-7:30
June 1 (Sat) Bemelman’s Bar with Loston Harris 9:30 – 1:00
June 5 Wednesday Jam Brown Bear Pub
June 6 (Thurs) Bemelman’s Bar w/ Loston Harris 9:30 – 12:30
June 7 (Friday) Clement’s Place w/Nat Adderley Jr. 7:30
June 8 (Sat) Bemelman’s Bar w/ Loston Harris 9:30 – 1:00
June 11 (Tues) Bemelman’s Bar w/ Loston Harris 9:30 – 12:30
June 12 (Wed) Bemelman’s Bar w/Loston Harris 9:30 – 12:30
June 12 (Wed) Wednesday Jam Brown Bear Pub Featuring Bruce Williams 8 pm – 11:45 pm
June 13 (Thurs) Bemelman’s Bar w/Loston Harris 9:30 – 12:30
June 14 (Fri) Bemelman’s Bar w/ Loston Harris 9:30 – 1:00
June 15 (Sat) Bemelman’s Bar w/ Loston Harris 9:30 – 1:00
June 16 (Sun) Jazz Standard Mike Lee Family Affair 12:30 -2
June 18 (Tues) Smalls with Frank Lacy 10:30 – 1:00
June 19 (Wed) Bemelman’s Bar w/Loston Harris 9:30 – 12:30
June 20 (Thurs) Bemelman’s Bar w/Loston Harris 9:30 – 12:30
June 21 (Fri) Bemelman’s Bar w/ Loston Harris 9:30 – 1:00
June 22 (Sat) Bemelman’s Bar w/ Loston Harris 9:30 – 1:00
June 23 (Sun) Judy Garland show Paramount Asbury 7p
June 25 (Tues) Bemelman’s Bar w/ Loston Harris 9:30 – 12:30
June 26 (Wed) Django w/ Josh Evans Big Band
June 27 (Thurs) Bemelman’s Bar w/Loston Harris 9:30 – 12:30
June 28 (Fri) Bemelman’s Bar w/ Loston Harris 9:30 – 1:00
June 29 (Sat) Bemelman’s Bar w/ Loston Harris 9:30 – 1:00
Bemelman’s Bar at the Carlyle Hotel
35 E 76th St, New York, NY 10021
15 Washington St, Newark, NJ 07102
116 E 27th St, New York, NY 10016
2 6th Ave, New York, NY 10013
Brown Bear Pub:
104 Harrison Ave
West Orange, NJ