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Welcome to mikeleejazz.com. Ready or not, the world is coming back. The gigs are coming in every day and a full time performance schedule. Please have a look around, watch some video, read an article, and subscribe to our newsletter!
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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.
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.