Thankful at the Birdland Theater!

We’re beyond excited to be continuing this return to live music performance at Birdland Theater in the famed Birdland Jazz Club.

As we’ve continued our residency at Bemelman’s Bar this fall, we’ve rediscovered our intimate musical rapport. The music has more meaning and poignancy having experienced the an extended period without each other and without our audiences. 

Now we’re taking it up a notch to play in this beautiful concert setting. This is a true band that has honed our sound and style over years of close interaction on the bandstand. These musicians are some of my closest friend as well as world class artists. 

Loston’s sound is that of a seasoned vocalist reminiscent of Frank Sinatra and Nat King Cole, while also relying  on his pianistic brilliance to elicit distinctive, virtuosic improvisation. 

I hope you will join us this upcoming Thursday, Friday or Saturday for a soulful evening. 

Make your reservation now by clicking on your preferred set time below:

Thursday Nov 25th 8:30 pm

Friday Nov 26th 7:00 pm 

Friday Nov 26th 9:30 pm

Saturday Nov 27th 7:00 pm

Saturday Nov 27th 9:30 pm

Loston Quartet at Birdland Theater

Join us in the Birdland Theater for a weekend with Loston Harris! Catch him November 25th with sets at 8:30pm!
  • Loston Harris : (piano and vocals)
  • Mark Whitfield: (guitar)
  • Gianluca Renzi: (acoustic bass)
  • Mike Lee: (saxophone)

Meet Loston Harris. His piano playing has been described as “percussive” with “incredibly fluid”. His vocals noted as “suave.”

Loston himself will tell you he has worked hard during his career but knows he’s been blessed with the opportunities to play the music closest to his heart, jazz. Loston is doing his part to continue a legacy by blending traditional jazz, gospel and blues with his own unique stylings.

Loston’s musical future began at a surreal pace. After meeting Harry Connick Jr. at the 1st Thelonious Monk Jazz Competition in Washington, D.C., Harry led Loston to study with his mentor, Ellis Marsalis, who encouraged him to switch instruments from drums to piano. And the rest, as they say, is history…

Frank Sinatra, Bobby Short and Nat King Cole can rest comfortably knowing that Loston Harris is keeping the flame alive.

Ruthie’s BBQ, Jazz Gallery, Kean University Jazz Festival


Things are bounding back to normal! It’s hard to fathom that a month ago I was barely gigging and now it’s back to a schedule reminiscent of 2019. This week my youngest child, Jacquie, takes a huge step forward in her blossoming career as a jazz violinist. She will be hosting a student jam session at Montclair’s classic Barbeque joint – Ruthie’s BBQ and Pizza. Then Friday and Saturday I will return to the Jazz Gallery in New York for a reunion of Roy Hargrove’s Big Band, celebrating his life and music. Also Saturday afternoon I’ll be taking the stage at the Kean University Jazz Festival with the Nat Adderley Jr. Quartet

Ruthie’s Bar-B-Q Student Jam Session

Thursday October 14th 6 pm until 9 pm

Hosted By Jacquie Lee (Violin)
Featuring Derrick Campos (Guitar), Michael Topping (Bass) and
Gilad Perlman (Drums).
Join us this Thursday Night at 6 pm as Ruthie’s Bar-B-Q and Pizza hosts an open jazz jam session for students. Led by up and coming 16-year-old violinist Jacquie Lee, the house band will open with a short set then segue directly into an open jazz jam. Bring your horn and your appetite! 

Thursday October 14th 6 pm until 9 pm Ruthie’s Bar-B-Q and Pizza
64 1/2 Chestnut St, Montclair, NJ 
No Cover
Food Minimum is $8

An Evening Celebrating Roy Hargrove’s 52nd Birthday with Big Band directed by Jason Marshall

  • Friday, October 15, 2021 &
  • Saturday October 16, 2021
  • The Jazz (map)
  • Google Calendar  ICS

with special guests Renee Neufville & Lezlie Harrison – vocals

Frank Greene
Tanya Darby
Wayne Tucker
Josh Evans

Jason Jackson
Andrae Murchison
Barry Cooper
James Burton

Bruce Williams
Justin Robinson
Keith Loftis
Mike Lee
Jason Marshall

Brandon McCune -piano
Danton Boller -bass
Saul Rubin –guitar
Jerome Jennings -drums

Since its founding in 1995 by Roy Hargrove, Dale Fitzgerald, and Lezlie Harrison, New York City’s The Jazz Gallery has been a key institution in the city’s jazz and creative music scene. Known as “the most imaginatively booked jazz club in New York” (New York Times), The Gallery has welcomed and nurtured several generations of musicians from around the world, including many who have gone on to critical acclaim as Grammy Award® nominees and winners, MacArthur Fellows, Thelonious Monk Competition winners and finalists, Critics’ Poll-winners, and headliners at major international festivals.

Saturday, October 16

Nat Adderley Jr. Quartet
Kean University Jazz & Roots Music Festival

Rain Date: October 17

  • Free Outdoor Concert
  • Live Music
  • Food Trucks

Pack a picnic basket — or visit the food trucks when you get here — and bring a blanket or chair to the inaugural Jazz & Roots Music Festival, a free outdoor music concert on The Lawn at Enlow Hall in Hillside NJ. Performing at the music festival is pianist/composer Nat Adderley Jr.; rap and hip-hop artist JSWISS, featuring Casey Benjamin and Mark Whitfield; the jazz group Dave Stryker Quartet; and the evening’s headliner — the Dizzy Gillespie Afro-Latin Experience.

For more information, email


  • 4:30 p.m. – Nat Adderley Jr.
  • 5:15 p.m. – JSWISS, featuring Casey Benjamin & Mark Whitfield
  • 6:00 p.m. – Dave Stryker Quartet
  • 7:00 p.m. – Dizzy Gillespie Afro-Latin Experience

The Lawn at Enlow Hall
215 North Avenue, Hillside, NJ


NPR Jazz Night In America Father’s Day Segment

This week’s Father’s Day episode of the renowned “Jazz Night In America” National Public Radio broadcast features Julian and me in a Father/Son segment that was beautifully produced by Alex Ariff and Narrated by Christian McBride. Joe Lovano and Wynton Marsalis weigh in on the discussion and there are a variety of musical selections featuring one or both of us. Many other musicians are heard including Loston Harris, Isaiah Thompson, Lenny White, Gianluca Renzi, The Jazz At Lincoln Center Orchestra. My other children, Matthew and Jacquie can also be heard in some of the incidental music as well. And of course there is some insightful and funny dialog from my amazing wife, Rebecca.

It was a dream come true to be interviewed with my wife and my son in this context. It was truly special to hear about Julian’s upbringing in music from his vantage point. You can listen to the episode tonight (Saturday June 19th) at 11 pm on New Jersey’s own WBGO, or anytime at the NPR website.

Nat Adderley Jr. Quartet at Takoma Station, DC

As we find ourselves playing live gigs again, I’m thrilled to be joining Nat Adderley Jr. for the fourth time this month. This trip takes the quartet to Washington, DC to the venerated Takoma Station Tavern. Nat’s group plays many of the hits of his long time associate, Luther Vandross, in a jazz setting as well as plenty of jazz standards with a strong dose of his father’s and uncle’s (Nat Sr. and Cannonball) music. It’s starting to feel like pre-pandemic times getting to play with these great musicians. Drummer Vince Ector and bassist Kenny Davis round out the group.


  • Saturday, June 26, 2021
  • Takoma Station6914 4th Street Northwest Washington, DC, 20012United States 

2 Shows – 5 pm & 8 pm

Limited Seats Doors open @ 4 pm

General Admission – $40

Nat Adderley Jr. – Piano
Mike Lee – Tenor Saxophone and Flute
Kenny Davis – Bass
Vince Ector – Drums

Tickets: 301-501-3812 or 301-661-5448

Tangerine with Gianluca Renzi and Alvester Garnett

This is the opening tune from a set of music played on May 9th as part of Gianluca Renzi’s Harlem Home Sessions. His recording and mixing technique is truly studio quality. Please check out more from this concert series on Gianluca’s Channel. For me this was an inspirational set with two of my closest musical collaborators. It was one of “those” gigs where everything just felt right. These two musicians are extraordinary instrumentalists and extremely intuitive empathetic musicians. Enjoy! Gianluca Renzi – bass Mike Lee – Tenor Saxophone Alvester Garnett – drums Mike Lee plays a P. Mauriat System 76 Tenor saxophone, Vandoren V16 8,5 Large Chamber Mouthpiece, and V16 #3 Tenor reeds.


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June is Jumpin’

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 Itinerary:
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

Venue Information:

Bemelman’s Bar at the Carlyle Hotel
35 E 76th St, New York, NY 10021
(212) 744-1600

Clement’s Place
15 Washington St, Newark, NJ 07102
(973) 923-0340

Jazz Standard
116 E 27th St, New York, NY 10016
(212) 576-2232

The Django
2 6th Ave, New York, NY 10013
(212) 519-6649

Brown Bear Pub:
104 Harrison Ave
West Orange, NJ


March ended on a high note as we accelerate into busy season!

Dave Stryker Quartet March 30th

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!

Applying to Music School

Last night I had the immense pleasure of giving my annual college talk at Jazz House Kids. The organization calls this “Jazz House Kids goes to college – part I” and offers it to all of our high school juniors and seniors and their parents. I started doing this about 5 years ago after my son, Julian, with lots of parental assistance, successfully managed his entrance to The Juilliard School. Helping Julian with all of his applications, navigating all the various deadlines, applying for financial aid, and  negotiating for more scholarship than was initially offered, was one of the most stressful endeavors of my life. This being our oldest child, it was our first experience of this entire process and we frankly felt bewildered and overwhelmed by the task. Once we were through this very complex process and had succeeded in achieving our goal I decided to try to pass on our hard won knowledge to the next class of parents, and have done so each year since then.

While my experience as a parent is the most important of my qualifications, I have also helped many other private students and Jazz House participants with their successful applications to Juilliard, Manhattan School of Music, Berklee, William Paterson, Northwestern, University of Miami, Rutgers, Oberlin Conservatory, and other schools. Additionally, as an adjunct professor at Montclair State University, I have been part of the process of auditioning and recruiting high school students to our program. And yet with all this experience I still don’t hold myself as an “expert” on the topic, but at least I can help parents and prospective students with a list of good questions to ask. Every year, I am asked questions that make me think about the topic in new ways and I’m usually given some useful information from the parents in the audience who have gone through this with an older child.

The general topics covered last night were:

  • Determining which schools are best for you
  • What schools are looking for in a prospective student
  • Developing a college requirement spreadsheet
  • Prescreening audition tapes
  • Live audition preparation and timelines
  • Scholarship and financial aid

Here are some important tips from my workshop:

  • Even the most conscientious, organized, dutiful student needs HELP navigating this process. It’s overwhelming, it requires reminders of multiple deadlines for EACH school. Set up reminders in a calendar app that will keep you on track with all of the dates for submission. If you apply to 8 schools (a recommended number) and they each have 5 due dates to track, that’s 40 dates to remember.
  • Make a spreadsheet. It will have about 10 columns with all the deadlines: deadline for university application, deadline for music school application (yes many schools require separate applications), deadline for pre-screening, submission, deadline for scheduling interview/school visit, financial aid deadline, FAFSA deadline. Additional columns will contain contact info for the admissions department, Director of Jazz Studies, instrumental teacher contact, tune requirements, and more.
  • Don’t take on huge debt. I cannot imagine starting life as a musician with a quarter million dollars of school debt. Go where they give you money.
  • Grades and test scores don’t have a huge influence on your admittance to a music school but may have a huge influence on non-music related funding available at a school. Universities usually have extra scholarships for high academic achievers.
  • All the advice we parents get about the importance of our children having a wide range of extra-curricular experience and community service doesn’t matter to music schools. I have found that these activities only detract from a music school applicants main job in high school – practice!!!
  • The most important thing a student needs to do to get into music school and receive scholarship is to practice. 3 to 4 hours a day minimum and hopefully even more than that when possible.
  • Narrow your pre-screening audition tape tune list to as few as possible to fulfill the requirements of all schools. Use your spreadsheet to figure out which tunes are necessary.
  • Hire young professional musicians to play on your audition tape. I know your friends are the greatest, but intros, endings, and other details are learned well only from EXPERIENCE and are going to be essential to making you sound your best.
  • Hire a producer for your session. Your private teacher or another trusted mentor can help manage how many takes of each tune are necessary and help keep the session flowing.
  • You don’t know what the auditioner is looking for. Play pretty, play soulfully, – you are probably not going to “impress” a college professor but you may turn one off by playing your hottest new lick and sacrificing time or artistic flow to do so.
  • The Financial aid process will kick your butt. It’s like filling out another tax return. Get advice and assistance from your financial advisor and accountant starting now and get all your ducks in a row. This is not the year you can file an extension.
  • Take each application and audition seriously. Even if you really don’t want to go to a particular school – the scholarship they offer you may work as a bargaining chip to get the scholarship you need from your first choice.
  • Scholarships are negotiable.
  • Schools don’t like to offer scholarships to students they think are not going to accept them. When negotiating make it clear to your first choice school that they are your first choice and if you receive the requested scholarship you will commit.
  • Don’t tell a school they are your first choice when they’re not, but you don’t need to advertise that you’ve got another favorite. Once you have accepted an offer from one school, let any other schools know that you are going elsewhere – this releases the other schools from any scholarship money they offered you and they can then offer that money to another student.