Jeanne Lee

Last updated
In Hamburg, 1984 JeanneLee.jpg
In Hamburg, 1984

Jeanne Lee (January 29, 1939 [1] – October 25, 2000) [2] was an American jazz singer, poet and composer. Best known for a wide range of vocal styles she mastered, Lee collaborated with numerous distinguished composers and performers who included Gunter Hampel, Andrew Cyrille, Ran Blake, Carla Bley, Anthony Braxton, Marion Brown, Archie Shepp, Mal Waldron, and many others.



Jeanne Lee was born in New York, United States. [1] Her father, S. Alonzo Lee, was a concert and church singer whose work influenced her at an early age. She was educated at the Walden School (a private school), and subsequently at Bard College, where she studied child psychology, [2] literature and dance. During her time at Bard she created choreography for pieces by various classical and jazz composers, ranging from Johann Sebastian Bach to Arnold Schoenberg. In 1961 she graduated from Bard College with a B.A. degree. [1] That year she performed as a duo at the Apollo Theater's Amateur Night contest with pianist Ran Blake, a fellow Bard alumnus, and after winning made her first record, The Newest Sound Around . [2] The album gained considerable popularity in Europe, where Lee and Blake toured in 1963, but went unnoticed in the US. [3] At this point, Lee's major influence was Abbey Lincoln. [4]

During the mid-1960s, Lee was exploring sound poetry, happenings, Fluxus-influenced art, and other multidisciplinary approaches to art. She was briefly married to sound poet David Hazelton, [5] and composed music for the sound poetry by poets such as Dick Higgins and Alison Knowles, becoming active in the California art scene of the time. In the late 1960s, she returned to the jazz scene and started performing and recording, quickly establishing herself as one of the most distinctively independent and creative artists in the field. [1] Already a few years after her return she had a major role in Carla Bley's magnum opus, Escalator over the Hill (1971), and recorded albums with eminent musicians including Archie Shepp and Marion Brown. [1] In 1967, while in Europe, Lee began a long association with vibraphonist and composer Gunter Hampel, whom she eventually married. [1] They had a son, Ruomi Lee-Hampel, and a daughter, Cavana Lee-Hampel.

In 1976, she represented the African-American spiritual musical tradition in John Cage's Apartment House 1776 , which was composed for the U.S. Bicentennial. The experience inspired Lee to devote more attention to her composing, and create extended works. The immediate result was Prayer for Our Time, a jazz oratorio.

Lee continued to perform and make recordings until her death in 2000, recording for labels such as Birth, BYG Actuel, JCOA, ECM, Black Saint/Soul Note, OWL and Horo. She sang on a large number of albums by Gunter Hampel. [1] In her late years, she ran the Jeanne Lee Ensemble, which performed a fusion of poetry, music and dance, and collaborated and toured with pianist Mal Waldron.

Lee was also active as educator. She received a MA in Education from New York University in 1972 and taught at various institutions both in the US and in Europe. She published a number of short features on music for Amsterdam News and various educational writings, including a textbook on the history of jazz music for grades four through seven. [6]

Lee died of cancer in 2000 in Tijuana, Mexico, aged 61. [7] She was survived by her husband and children.


With Andrew Cyrille

With Gunter Hampel

With Mal Waldron

With others

Selected compositions

Further reading

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Sunny Murray</span> American jazz drummer (1936–2017)

James Marcellus Arthur "Sunny" Murray was an American musician, and was one of the pioneers of the free jazz style of drumming.

Grachan Moncur III was an American jazz trombonist. He was the son of jazz bassist Grachan Moncur II and the nephew of jazz saxophonist Al Cooper.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Mal Waldron</span> American jazz pianist and composer (1925–2002)

Malcolm Earl "Mal" Waldron was an American jazz pianist, composer, and arranger. He started playing professionally in New York in 1950, after graduating from college. In the following dozen years or so Waldron led his own bands and played for those led by Charles Mingus, Jackie McLean, John Coltrane, and Eric Dolphy, among others. During Waldron's period as house pianist for Prestige Records in the late 1950s, he appeared on dozens of albums and composed for many of them, including writing his most famous song, "Soul Eyes", for Coltrane. Waldron was often an accompanist for vocalists, and was Billie Holiday's regular accompanist from April 1957 until her death in July 1959.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Leroy Jenkins (musician)</span> American composer and violinist (1932–2007)

Leroy Jenkins was an American composer and violinist/violist.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Perry Robinson</span> American musician

Perry Morris Robinson was an American jazz clarinetist and composer. He was the son of composer Earl Robinson.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Paul Bley</span> Canadian jazz pianist

Paul Bley, CM was a jazz pianist known for his contributions to the free jazz movement of the 1960s as well as his innovations and influence on trio playing and his early live performance on the Moog and ARP synthesizers. His music has been described by Ben Ratliff of the New York Times as "deeply original and aesthetically aggressive". Bley's prolific output includes influential recordings from the 1950s through to his solo piano recordings of the 2000s.

William Godvin "Beaver" Harris was an American jazz drummer who worked extensively with Archie Shepp.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Roswell Rudd</span> American jazz trombonist and composer

Roswell Hopkins Rudd Jr. was an American jazz trombonist and composer.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Marion Brown</span> American saxophonist

Marion Brown was an American jazz alto saxophonist, composer, writer, visual artist, and ethnomusicologist. He was a member of the avant-garde jazz scene in New York City during the 1960s, playing alongside musicians such as John Coltrane, Archie Shepp, and John Tchicai. He performed on Coltrane's landmark 1965 album Ascension. AllMusic reviewer Scott Yanow described him as "one of the brightest and most lyrical voices of the 1960s avant-garde."

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Pierre Courbois</span> Dutch jazz drummer, bandleader, and composer

Pierre Courbois is a Dutch jazz drummer, bandleader, and composer.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Gunter Hampel</span> German jazz musician

Gunter Hampel is a German jazz vibraphonist, clarinettist, saxophonist, flautist, pianist, and composer. He became dedicated to free jazz in the 1960s, developing a record label and working with Jeanne Lee, John McLaughlin, Muruga Booker, Laurie Allan, Udo Lindenberg, Pierre Courbois, Archie Shepp, Marion Brown, Steve McCall and Perry Robinson. In 1972, he formed the Galaxie Dream Band.

Clifford Edward Thornton III was an American jazz trumpeter, trombonist, activist, and educator. He played free jazz and avant-garde jazz in the 1960s and '70s.

<i>Blasé</i> (album) 1969 studio album by Archie Shepp

Blasé is an album by jazz saxophonist Archie Shepp recorded in Europe in 1969 for the BYG Actuel label.

Horo Records was an Italian jazz record label.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Kent Carter</span> Musical artist

Kent Carter is an American jazz bassist. His father, Alan Carter, founded the Vermont Symphony Orchestra. He is also the grandson of American artist, Rockwell Kent. He worked in Steve Lacy's group, played on the two Jazz Composer's Orchestra albums and released albums for Emanem Records.

"Left Alone" is a jazz song written by singer Billie Holiday and pianist/composer Mal Waldron, and published by E.B. Marks.

<i>Hi-Fly</i> (Karin Krog and Archie Shepp album) 1976 studio album by Karin Krog and Archie Shepp

Hi-Fly is a 1976 album by jazz singer Karin Krog and saxophonist Archie Shepp.

Calo Scott was a Cuban-American jazz cellist. Scott is noted for being one of earliest known jazz cellists. He established himself in the 1950s through working with the saxophonist Gerry Mulligan when “having a cello player as an improvising member of a jazz group was then virtually unheard of.” In addition to Gerry Mulligan, Calo Scott worked with Ahmed Abdul-Malik, Gato Barbieri, Marc Levin, and John Handy among others. He was also active in New York City's Lower East Side intermedia-arts scene, working with artists such as dancer-choreographer Mary McKay, artist Aldo Tambellini, and filmmaker Cassandra Einstein.

<i>Homage to Africa</i> 1970 studio album by Sunny Murray

Homage to Africa is an album by American free jazz drummer Sunny Murray. It was recorded in Paris in August 1969, and released on the BYG Actuel label in 1970. On the album, Murray is joined by saxophonists Roscoe Mitchell, Archie Shepp and Kenneth Terroade, trumpeter Lester Bowie, cornetist Clifford Thornton, trombonist Grachan Moncur III, vocalist Jeanne Lee, pianist Dave Burrell, bassist Alan Silva, and percussionists Malachi Favors, Earl Freeman, and Arthur Jones.

<i>The Newest Sound Around</i> 1962 studio album by Jeanne Lee and Ran Blake

The Newest Sound Around is an album by singer Jeanne Lee and pianist Ran Blake. It was recorded in November and December, 1961, at RCA Victor Studio in New York City, and was released by RCA Victor in 1962. The album, which was the debut recording for both musicians, was reissued on CD in 1987 with four extra tracks, and with the title The Legendary Duets. Bassist George Duvivier is featured on two tracks.