Adventures in Saxophonisity
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.
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March ended on a high note as we accelerate into busy season!
After our CD release at Dizzy’s, I was thrilled to come back home to Montclair last Saturday night and play with Dave Stryker at our local landmark, Trumpets Jazz Club. It was Dave’s birthday celebration and the place was filled to the rafters! It was exciting to play for so many friends and neighbors. Dave is churning out more great music and has already recorded two albums this year which are due for release this spring. I had fun helping him work up the music for these releases and was delighted to perform much of this music at Trumpets. Trumpets has been a vital part of our musical culture and I was saddened to learn that it has been put up for sale. Here’s hoping the new owners take up the mantle of Kristine Massari and Enrico Granafei and keep presenting world-class jazz music.
This weekend I’m looking forward to performing again with the legendary pianist/composer and former musical director for Luther Vandross, Nat Adderley Jr. Saturday April 6th at 2 pm at the Montclair Museum of Art.
Sunday, I’ll be in Morristown for the New Jersey Jazz Society 50th Annual Pee Wee Russell Memorial Stomp at the Hyatt Regency Hotel. First I’ll be directing my Jazz House Kids Ambassadors ensemble at noon, then joining Andy Farber and a a great line up of saxophonist for a battle royal at 1:15.
Then Wednesday is my birthday celebration at Small’s Jazz Club in New York City. Smalls is one of the greatest jazz clubs in the world and I’m excited to celebrate with my trio – Ed Howard on bass, and Alvester Garnett on drums plus added guest Julian Lee on Saxophone. Thursday the same band will make it’s way to New Brunswick and the New Brunswick Jazz Project’s Thursday night at the Hyatt. Later this month the Loston Harris Trio begins it’s spring residency at Bemelman’s Bar at the Carlyle Hotel. See the full April Calendar here
March and April are decision time and I’m so excited for my students who have successfully auditioned at The Juilliard School, New England Conservatory, Manhattan School of Music, and many other fine institutions. It’s been a banner year for the students of Jazz House Kids!
Spring is here and so is a full Schedule of musical activity. Be sure to check out the frequently updated calendar
APR 6 Sat 2:00 pm – 4:00 pm Nat Adderley Jr. – Praise Groove w/Jazz Montclair Art Museum
APR 7 Sun 12:00 pm – 2:30 pm New Jersey Jazz Society 50th Annual Pee Wee Russell Memorial Stomp @ Hyatt Regency
APR 10 Wed 10:30 pm – 1:00 am Smalls Jazz – Mike Lee Birthday Celebration! @ Smalls Jazz Club
APR 11 Thu 8:00 pm – 11:00 pm New Brunswick Jazz Project @ Hyatt Regency
APR 12 Fri Sparta High School Jazz Festival, Adjudicator
APR 13 SatNewark Academy Essentially Ellington Festival Adjudicator
April 14 Sun Montclair State University Combos at Shanghai Jazz Club
APR 18 Thu 9:30 pm – 12:30 am Loston Harris Trio @ Bemelman’s Bar
APR 19 Fri 9:30 pm – 1:00 am Loston Harris Trio @ Bemelman’s Bar
APR 20 Sat 9:30 pm – 1:00 am Loston Harris Trio @ Bemelman’s Bar
APR 22 Mon– String Masterclass and Student performance Jazz House Kids
APR 23 Tue 10:30 pm – 1:00 am Frank Lacy Ensemble @ Smalls
APR 25 Thu 9:30 pm – 12:30 am Loston Harris Trio @ Bemelman’s Bar
APR 26 Fri 9:30 pm – 1:00 am Loston Harris Trio @ Bemelman’s Bar
APR 27 Sat – Frank Lacy Ensemble – time and venue TBA
Drum icon Lenny White continued his enthusiastic support for this project by playing the music with equal parts nuance and power. Releasing this album on his IYOUWEE label has been a tremendous privilege.
We are in the midst of the radio and media promotion for the album. I couldn’t have asked for a better advocate.
Joining me in the front line was my son, and New York saxophonist, Julian Lee. He wasn’t only an extraordinary asset as an intelligent creative artist, but also helped focus me and took the pressure off in many mundane ways. Dizzy’s was Julian’s home for two years when he hosted the late night session there. The people of Dizzy’s, from the administration and mangers, to the servers, bartenders, security personnel are like family to Julian and by extension to me.
My first gig as a leader at the famed Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola is in the books. What a night it was! Playing against a backdrop of Columbus Circle and Central Park with some of my favorite musicians in celebration of my New CD was everything one could ask for. The wonderful fans, family, and students who packed the club to capacity made it even more wonderful.
George Colligan, piano, and Ed Howard, bass, showed why they are two of the most versatile and in demand artists in today’s music scene. The only hitch in the whole evening happened when Ed’s A -string broke on the last note of the first tune. A potentially devastating challenge was instantly solved when the great bassist, Ben Wolfe, who was sitting at the bar offered his bass. After two minutes Ed was back in action. Ben Wolfe to the rescue!
Matthew jumped up for the last tune – “Hey Lock” which he also performs on the record. He was swinging away! Look out for Jacquie, too!
I’ve spent a lot of time at Dizzy’s over the last couple of years. Most often I’ve been on my way home from my steady gig at the Carlyle with Loston Harris when I stop into the jam session which was for a long time was hosted by my son, Julian. I have also performed at Dizzy’s with Oliver Lake, Josh Evans, Loston Harris, and even played one week as Julian’s sideman for the late set when he was the late night featured artist. But on March 25th at 9:30 – one set only! – I will be debuting as a leader at the famous Jazz at Lincoln Center night club, Dizzy’s Club Coca-cola in celebration of my new CD “Song For All Of Us” on the IYOUWE record label.
The gig, like the CD, will feature the iconic drummer, Lenny White (Miles Davis, Chick Corea, Chaka Khan), as well as master musicians George Colligan on piano, and Ed Howard on bass. Julian Lee will be joining me in the front line. Please join us for this wonderful evening by reserving tickets here. The video below shows some short snippets from our New Jersey CD release at Clement’s Place last month.
Some video from France and Italy started circulating recently. Thought I’d share these with you.
Here’s a version of Charlie Parker’s “Cheryl” from Club Bebop in Rome. With Gianluca Renzi and Lorenzo Tucci
“Simone” From Le Taquin in Toulouse, France With Gianluca Renzi and Lukmil Perez
This is a video I did about the great new mouthpiece from Vandoren. We filmed this at Vandoren studios in Paris in February.
The advent of social media has allowed me to witness the re-emergence of the phenomena of “lick” haters. “Licks” are short worked out melodies that musicians use in their improvised solos. The complaint against licks, I think, boils down to musicians sounding uninspired and clinical because their improvisations sound like exercises and don’t illicit a sense of freedom and spontaneity that true art requires. The conventional wisdom is that learning licks leads to this kind of performance. But I couldn’t disagree more.
Great news! This article was just published at bestsaxophonewebsiteever. Read the whole article below:
I’m beyond thrilled to announce the release of my first “solo” recording in many years. This CD presents many facets of my musical life from trio performances with master musicians Ed Howard and Lenny White, to more complex original material featuring Bruce Williams, Dave Stryker, and George Colligan. There are even two selections which feature my sons Julian and Matthew.
Let’s just get this out there: I love practicing. Sometimes to a fault. By now I think that most people have caught on that practicing isn’t just something for young musicians, but a it is part of our journey throughout life.
I noticed last week that I had a Saturday night off. Checking my date book, it was the first time since September that I had a Saturday off. I’ve been busy playing improvisational music with wonderful musicians for several months. That’s great and I wouldn’t ever complain about that situation. But having a few weeks off here is so welcomed because I find myself back to my favorite way to practice, which is just for my long term improvement and not shedding – or worse – “cramming” for an upcoming gig. I’ve played and studied so much music in the past couple of months and I’m drawing from that to infuse my improvisations with new discoveries and melodies that have come into my awareness. The end of March brings in another stretch of several months of gigs and I’m working hard now to raise my overall level and add to my musical arsenal so my long time bandmates and fans have new material to hear.
Since my relatively slow schedule this week has allowed me a half a second to take a breath, I thought I’d take a moment to reflect on two inspiring tours in Europe to start the year. Thanks to my dear friend the amazing bassist, Gianluca Renzi, we were able to spend most of January and the first half of February in Italy, France, Switzerland and even a pass through London. It’s amazing how strong the love for this American art form is throughout the world and it was a real treat share this music in an intimate trio format (tenor saxophone, bass, and drums) in wonderful venues with exceptional fans.
Come celebrate the release of Mike Lee’s new album “Song For All Of Us”(Available 2.18.2019 on Iyouwe Music!) at Clements Place on Saturday, February 23rd Set 1 at 7:30 and Set 2 at 9:15 p.m with a stellar line-up of A-List musicians!
The event is FREE but reservations are required:
Mike Lee – tenor Saxophone www.mikeleejazz.com
Originally from Cleveland, Ohio, saxophonist Mike Lee has established himself in the New York City/Northern New Jersey area for many years. He balances a thriving performing career with a distinguished teaching resume. He performs regularly in New York City as a member of a wide array of jazz ensembles. His current associations include The Jimmy Heath Orchestra, The Dizzy Gillespie Orchestra, Wallace Roney’s Universe Orchestra, The Oliver Lake Big Band, The Loston Harris Trio, The Nat Adderley Jr. Quartet, Josh Evans Big Band, Dave Stryker, Frank Lacy, TS Monk, and The Roy Hargrove Big Band. He performs regularly at venues such as The Bluenote, Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola, Smalls, The Jazz Gallery, Fat Cat, and Bemelman’s Bar at the Carlyle Hotel. Recent tours have taken him up and down the East Coast, to California and Beijing, China. Lee has presented clinics and workshops throughout the country. Mr. Lee is endorsed by Conn-Selmer saxophones and Vandoren mouthpieces/reeds.
For Mike’s Clement’s Place “Song For All Of Us” debut, he brings his band that includes
- Lennie White on drums,
- Dave Stryker on Guitar,
- Bruce Williams on Sax,
- Ed Howard on bass
- Bruce Williams – alto saxophone Bruce Williams Bruce Williams is a powerful young jazz saxophonist who hails from our nation’s capital of Washington, D.C. He has made his presence known on the jazz scene by garnering critical attention with his own enthusiastically received CD releases. The Bard College and Juilliard Jazz professor has graced the horn sections of The World Saxophone Quartet, Roy Hargrove’s Big Band, The Count Basie Orchestra and groups led by Stanley Cowell, Buster Williams, Steve Turre and Little Jimmy Scott.
- Dave Stryker – – guitar – is an American jazz guitarist. He has recorded over twenty-five albums as a leader and has been a featured sideman with Stanley Turrentine, Jack McDuff, and Kevin Mahogany. Gary Giddins in the Village Voice calls him “one of the most distinctive guitarists to come along in recent years.” He was voted in once again this year to the Downbeat Critics and Readers Poll.
- Ed Howard – bass: A New Yorker, Ed Howard joined forces with the brilliant drummer Roy Haynes in the early ’80s and has been featured on three discs created by the Haynes group, including the 1992 Homecoming. Clifford Jordan is a tenor saxophonist who many modern jazz fans will associate with the intense bass playing of bandleader and composer Charlie Mingus. Howard, undoubtedly influenced by the latter master as would be any jazz bassist, also cites Jordan himself as a major teacher. Howard played in Jordan’s own quartet from 1983 through 1992. It was in this context that the bassist had his first chance to record, a session that also featured pianist Jaki Byard, yet another of the major Mingus alumni. A contrasting collaboration for the bassist has been his work with an ensemble led by Gary Thomas, 7th Quadrant.
- Lenny White – drums – Lenny White – drums Leonard White III born in New York City, a resident of Teaneck, New Jersey is a three-time Grammy Award-winning American jazz fusion drummer. White earned a worldwide reputation as the drummer in the supergroup Return to Forever, best known as “one of the founding fathers of the musical movement known as “fusion,” and Chick Corea’s Return to Forever Band. He has played on two of the most important “fusion” records ever made, Miles Davis’ “Bitches Brew” and Freddie Hubbard’s “Red Clay.”
Join us for an exciting and inspiring evening of “Song For All Of Us”!
Complimentary Refreshments and No Cover
Free and open to the public RSVP a Must.
Sat, February 23, 2019
Sets at 7:30 and 9:15pm
Clement’s Place Jazz
15 Washington Place
Newark, NJ 07102