Mike Lee – Short Bio
Mike Lee has been a part of the greater New York Jazz Scene for almost 30 years. Since his early associations with Dave Douglas and Joe Lovano in the 80's, through his stint with the Woody Herman Orchestra and regular gigs with The Village Vanguard Orchestra and Maria Schneider Orchestra in the 90's to his current associations with Oliver Lake's ensembles, Wallace Roney Orchestra, and Michele Rosewoman's New Yor-Uba, Lee has a proven track record as a versatile soloist and a consummate ensemble musician. As a leader, he fronted the renowned Cecil's Big Band for six years and co-leads the ground breaking quartet, New Tricks. He performs with his trios regularly at his weekly Hat City Kitchen Jam Session as well as Trumpet's Jazz Club and other area venues.
Lee's commitment to music has been unwavering throughout his career. This year has been one of his most exciting to date. This past spring he was asked to join Michele Rosewoman's New Yor-Uba ensemble for a week of rehearsals and a three days of recording. The ensembled performed at Roulette Performance Space in Brooklyn and again at the Painted Bride in Philadelphia. The result of this intensive run was New Yor-Uba's debut recording. In July, Lee joined Wallace Roney's Orchestra when it premiered Wayne Shorter's "Universe" and other compositions Wayne had written and Orchestrated for Miles Davis in a weeklong run at the Jazz Standard. August saw Mike and his son, Julian, join the Dizzy Gillespie Big Band under the direction of Paquito D'Rivera for a short tour that ended at the legendary Newport Jazz Festival. Lee performed at the Montclair Jazz Festival with Oscar Perez and his group Nuevo Comienzo with special guests, Melissa Walker and Christian McBride. As a member of Oliver Lake's Big Band, Mike performed at a packed Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola in New York City.
Mike has been a part of the Northern Jersey Jazz community for 15 years and has contributed to the development of that community significantly. Whether it be through his leadership of the Cecil's Big Band, his role as director of the Jazz House Kids Summer Camp and small groups programs, or his highly touted Hat City Kitchen Jam, Lee has inspired comradery, friendship, and musical growth. Grateful to live a life of musical immersion, he has tried to bring a spirit of family into every aspect of his journey.
Lee's Wednesday Night jam session at Hat City Kitchen, in place for a year and half, has provided a meeting place for every type of jazz musician from very young, to established jazz icons like Steve Turre, Myron Walden, Russell Malone, Bruce Williams, Alvester Garnett, and Ali Jackson. The event is always exciting as young musicians share the stage with established veterans. It has become a great platform for networking, learning, experimenting, and growing. Mike's house band always features the highest order of professional musicians and we are often joined by the great guitarist, Dave Stryker.
Professor, Teaching Artist, Jam Session Leader
As a saxophone teacher, improvisation instructor, and ensemble director, Lee has established himself as one of the foremost jazz educators today. Currently, two of his private students are counted among the four undergraduate jazz saxophone students at The Juilliard School. Other former students have gone on to study at Miami University, Berklee School of Music, Manhattan School of Music and New England Conservatory. His private students have won numerous Downbeat, Mingus Competition, Essentially Ellington, Grammy Band, and Next Generation Orchestra citations. He was the original instructor for and oversaw the design of Jazz House Kids in-house training program. With Lee as the coordinator, Jazz House Kids established itself as an elite community jazz education organization. Mike has just accepted the position of Adjunct Professor of Jazz Saxophone at the John J. Cali School of Music at Montclair State University.
As a clinician Lee has given masterclasses and workshops at over 150 conservatories, universities, and high schools. He gives presentations on jazz improvisation, saxophone masterclasses, and overcoming negative thought patterns in practicing and performing. His clear command of what improvisation is, and what it is not, help students understand a clear path to mastering the craft. By breaking the process down into doable parts, students are able to get past the feeling of overwhelm often associated with the process of learning this high art.