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.
Order my new album “Song For All Of Us” NOW on iTunes and Amazon!
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!
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
Location: Clement’s Place Jazz 15 Washington Place Newark, NJ 07102
For the last three years I have been lucky enough to bring the Jazz House Kids Ambassadors combo to the prestigious Charles Mingus competition. Through this process, my love of Charles Mingus’ music has grown exponentially as I study it more deeply to teach it to the members of the group. The event itself allows our students to gain more insight into the music by getting instruction and feedback from the members of the Mingus Big Band. There are panel discussions for us directors in which we gain further insight into the compositions and the genius of Mingus.
On the day of the competition, this past Sunday, we performed “Reincarnation of a Lovebird”, “Portrait”, and “Peggy’s Blue Skylight”. And low and behold they won their category. To make the day complete, our Jazz House Kids Big Band under the direction of Abraham Burton won as well!
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.
This is the first in what will be a series of articles about some of the amazing musicians I work with.
Guitarist Dave Stryker has built an exceptional career as a performer and band leader by presenting music which grooves hard and emphasizes melody while simultaneously evoking the most virtuosic qualities of jazz. He brings in listeners to our world who might not otherwise listen to this music but at the same time wows and entertains the most serious jazz devotees. His career has blossomed in the last few years because of his music’s exceptional quality and his unwavering work ethic. He has worked with everyone from Jack MacDuff to Kevin Mahogany and through his extended tenure with the great Stanley Turrentine, has performed with luminaries such as Dizzy Gillespie and Freddie Hubbard.
Dave has been so important in my recent musical development and success, I’m writing this post in part to highlight our upcoming gig at Nighttown in Cleveland as well as presenting a public “thank you” to Dave for all his efforts on my behalf.
I first met Dave in about 1984 when I arrived in New York City. He was already off and running on a great career. We played together in some informal settings in and around Brooklyn and I looked up to him as an already established player. We reconnected in Jersey in the early 2000’s through some educational programs, including Jazz Connections and Jazz House Kids. We were also regulars on the Cecil’s Jazz Club scene in West Orange sitting in and performing together in a variety of situations.
When Cecil’s closed in 2012, Dave was proactive about finding another venue and connected me with another local club where I was able to start my weekly jam session. Dave still plays with us on Wednesday nights on the rare occasion that he is in town and available. This session has been a launching point for my musical vision and a meeting place for the great North Jersey musicians. We are currently hosted by SuzyQue’s in West Orange.
Shortly after that, the position of Adjunct Professor of Jazz Saxophone at Montclair State University opened up and Dave was instrumental in recommending me for that position. I’ve just started my 6th year at this wonderful program.
The following year, Dave asked me to help him program music for the album he recorded as a tribute to master saxophonist Stanley Turrentine entitled “Messin’ With Mr. T“. I played many rehearsals and helped with arrangements and copy work. For the date, Dave hired 10 different tenor players to each play one of ten tunes associated with the great Stanley T. To say I was (and still am!) honored to be part of a lineup that included Houston Person, Jimmy Heath, Chris Potter, Eric Alexander, Bob Mintzer and Javon Jackson would be a massive understatement.
I continue to play with Dave in a number of settings. He recorded with me last fall for my upcoming release “Song For All of Us” and I play in his group from time to time. Next Friday, October 5th, 2018. We’ll be returning to my hometown club Nighttown in Cleveland Heights, OH. We’ll be joined by the great Ohio musicians, Bobby Floyd on Organ and Reggie Jackson on Drums. We’re going to play some great tunes from Dave’s “8-Track” CDs and other favorites. Hope to see you all there! Click here for tickets.