Jeanne Lee

Jeanne Lee

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Jeanne Lee was an American
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 jazz singer, poet
Poet
A poet is a person who writes poetry. A poet's work can be literal, meaning that his work is derived from a specific event, or metaphorical, meaning that his work can take on many meanings and forms. Poets have existed since antiquity, in nearly all languages, and have produced works that vary...

 and composer
Composer
A composer is a person who creates music, either by musical notation or oral tradition, for interpretation and performance, or through direct manipulation of sonic material through electronic media...

. Best known for a wide range of vocal styles she mastered, Lee collaborated with numerous distinguished composers and performers which included Gunter Hampel
Gunter Hampel
Gunter Hampel is a German jazz vibraphonist, clarinettist, saxophonist, flautist, pianist and composer born in Göttingen, Germany, perhaps best-known for his album "The 8th of July 1969" that included fellow musicians Anthony Braxton, Willem Breuker and Jeanne Lee...

, Ran Blake
Ran Blake
Ran Blake is an American pianist and composer from Springfield, Massachusetts. In a career that spans five decades, Blake has created a unique niche in improvised music as an artist and educator...

, Carla Bley
Carla Bley
Carla Bley, née Borg, is an American jazz composer, pianist, organist and band leader. An important figure in the Free Jazz movement of the 1960s, she is perhaps best known for her jazz opera Escalator Over The Hill , as well as a book of compositions that have been performed by many other...

, Anthony Braxton
Anthony Braxton
Anthony Braxton is an American composer, saxophonist, clarinettist, flautist, pianist, and philosopher. Braxton has released well over 100 albums since the 1960s...

, Marion Brown
Marion Brown
Marion Brown was a jazz alto saxophonist and ethnomusicologist. He is most well known as a member of the 1960s avant-garde jazz scene in New York City, playing alongside musicians such as John Coltrane, Archie Shepp, and John Tchicai...

, and many others.

Biography


Jeanne Lee was born in New York City
New York City
New York is the most populous city in the United States and the center of the New York Metropolitan Area, one of the most populous metropolitan areas in the world. New York exerts a significant impact upon global commerce, finance, media, art, fashion, research, technology, education, and...

. Her father S. Alonzo Lee was a concert and church singer whose work influenced her at an early age. She was educated at the Wolver School (a private school), and subsequently at Bard College
Bard College
Bard College, founded in 1860 as "St. Stephen's College", is a small four-year liberal arts college located in Annandale-on-Hudson, New York.-Location:...

, where she studied literature, psychology and dance. During her time at Bard she created choreography for pieces by various classical and jazz composers, ranging from Johann Sebastian Bach
Johann Sebastian Bach
Johann Sebastian Bach was a German composer, organist, harpsichordist, violist, and violinist whose sacred and secular works for choir, orchestra, and solo instruments drew together the strands of the Baroque period and brought it to its ultimate maturity...

 to Arnold Schoenberg
Arnold Schoenberg
Arnold Schoenberg was an Austrian composer, associated with the expressionist movement in German poetry and art, and leader of the Second Viennese School...

. In 1961 she graduated from Bard College with a B.A.
Bachelor of Arts
A Bachelor of Arts , from the Latin artium baccalaureus, is a bachelor's degree awarded for an undergraduate course or program in either the liberal arts, the sciences, or both...

 degree, and later that year made her first record, The Newest Sound Around, with pianist Ran Blake
Ran Blake
Ran Blake is an American pianist and composer from Springfield, Massachusetts. In a career that spans five decades, Blake has created a unique niche in improvised music as an artist and educator...

, a fellow Bard alumnus. The album gained considerable popularity in Europe, where Lee and Blake toured in 1963, but went unnoticed in the US. At this point, Lee's major influence was Abbey Lincoln
Abbey Lincoln
Anna Marie Wooldridge , better known by her stage name Abbey Lincoln, was a jazz vocalist, songwriter, and actress. Lincoln was unusual in that she wrote and performed her own compositions, expanding the expectations of jazz audiences.-Biography:Born in Chicago, Illinois, she was one of many...

.

During the mid-1960s Lee was exploring sound poetry
Sound poetry
Sound poetry is an artistic form bridging between literary and musical composition, in which the phonetic aspects of human speech are foregrounded instead of more conventional semantic and syntactic values; "verse without words"...

, Happening
Happening
A happening is a performance, event or situation meant to be considered art, usually as performance art. Happenings take place anywhere , are often multi-disciplinary, with a nonlinear narrative and the active participation of the audience...

s, Fluxus
Fluxus
Fluxus—a name taken from a Latin word meaning "to flow"—is an international network of artists, composers and designers noted for blending different artistic media and disciplines in the 1960s. They have been active in Neo-Dada noise music and visual art as well as literature, urban planning,...

-influenced art, and other multidisciplinary approaches to art. She was briefly married to sound poet David Hazelton, and composed music for the sound poetry by poets such as Dick Higgins
Dick Higgins
Dick Higgins was a composer, poet, printer, and early Fluxus artist. Higgins was born in Cambridge, England, but raised in the United States in various parts of New England, including Worcester, Massachusetts, Putney, Vermont, and Concord, New Hampshire.Like other Fluxus artists, Higgins studied...

 and Alison Knowles
Alison Knowles
Alison Knowles in New York City is an American visual artist known for her soundworks, installations, performances, and publications. Knowles was very active in the Fluxus movement, and continues to create work inspired by her Fluxus experience....

, 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. Already a few years after her return she had a major role in Carla Bley
Carla Bley
Carla Bley, née Borg, is an American jazz composer, pianist, organist and band leader. An important figure in the Free Jazz movement of the 1960s, she is perhaps best known for her jazz opera Escalator Over The Hill , as well as a book of compositions that have been performed by many other...

's magnum opus, Escalator over the Hill
Escalator over the Hill
Escalator over the Hill is mostly referred to as a jazz opera, but it was released as a "chronotransduction" with "words by Paul Haines, adaptation and music by Carla Bley, production and coordination by Michael Mantler", performed by the Jazz Composer's Orchestra.-History:Escalator over the Hill...

(1971), and recorded albums with eminent musicians that included Archie Shepp
Archie Shepp
Archie Shepp is a prominent African-American jazz saxophonist. Shepp is best known for his passionately Afrocentric music of the late 1960s, which focused on highlighting the injustices faced by the African-Americans, as well as for his work with the New York Contemporary Five, Horace Parlan, and...

 and Marion Brown
Marion Brown
Marion Brown was a jazz alto saxophonist and ethnomusicologist. He is most well known as a member of the 1960s avant-garde jazz scene in New York City, playing alongside musicians such as John Coltrane, Archie Shepp, and John Tchicai...

. In 1967, while in Europe, she began a long association with vibraphonist
Vibraphonist
Notable players of the vibraphone include:* Peter Appleyard* Roy Ayers* Karl Berger* Jeff Berman* Jack Brokensha* Larry Bunker* Christian Burchard* Rusty Burge* Gary Burton* Joe Chambers* Teddy Charles* Salem Chiles* John Cocuzzi* Monte Croft...

 and composer Gunter Hampel
Gunter Hampel
Gunter Hampel is a German jazz vibraphonist, clarinettist, saxophonist, flautist, pianist and composer born in Göttingen, Germany, perhaps best-known for his album "The 8th of July 1969" that included fellow musicians Anthony Braxton, Willem Breuker and Jeanne Lee...

, whom Lee eventually married. They had a son, Ruomi Lee-Hampel, and a daughter, Cavana Lee-Hampel.

In 1976 she represented the African American
African American
African Americans are citizens or residents of the United States who have at least partial ancestry from any of the native populations of Sub-Saharan Africa and are the direct descendants of enslaved Africans within the boundaries of the present United States...

 spiritual musical tradition in John Cage
John Cage
John Milton Cage Jr. was an American composer, music theorist, writer, philosopher and artist. A pioneer of indeterminacy in music, electroacoustic music, and non-standard use of musical instruments, Cage was one of the leading figures of the post-war avant-garde...

's Apartment House 1776
Apartment House 1776
Apartment House 1776 is a 1976 composition by the American composer John Cage, composed for the United States Bicentennial and premiered by six orchestras across the country in 1976. The work was commissioned jointly by the orchestras of Boston, Chicago, Cleveland, Los Angeles, New York, and...

, which was composed for the U.S. Bicentennial
United States Bicentennial
The United States Bicentennial was a series of celebrations and observances during the mid-1970s that paid tribute to the historical events leading up to the creation of the United States as an independent republic...

. 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
BYG Actuel
BYG Actuel was a French record label specializing in free jazz. The label also released a small number of non-jazz recordings by artists such as Musica Elettronica Viva, Freedom and Gong.-History:...

, JCOA, ECM
ECM (record label)
ECM is a record label founded in Munich, Germany, in 1969 by Manfred Eicher. While ECM is best known for jazz music, the label has released a wide variety of recordings, and ECM's artists often refuse to acknowledge boundaries between genres...

, Black Saint/Soul Note
Black Saint/Soul Note
Black Saint and Soul Note are two affiliated Italian jazz independent record labels. Since their conception in the 1970s, they have released albums from a variety of influential jazz musicians, particularly in the genre of free jazz.-History:...

, OWL and Horo. She sang on a large number of albums by Gunter Hampel. In her late years, Lee ran the Jeanne Lee Ensemble, which performed a fusion of poetry, music and dance, and collaborated and toured with pianist Mal Waldron
Mal Waldron
Malcolm Earl Waldron was an American jazz and world music pianist and composer, born in New York City.Like his contemporaries, Waldron's roots lie chiefly in the hard bop and post-bop genres of the New York club scene of the 1950s; but with time, he gravitated more towards free jazz and composition...

. Lee was also active as educator. She received a MA
Master of Arts (postgraduate)
A Master of Arts from the Latin Magister Artium, is a type of Master's degree awarded by universities in many countries. The M.A. is usually contrasted with the M.S. or M.Sc. degrees...

 in Education from the New York University
New York University
New York University is a private, nonsectarian research university based in New York City. NYU's main campus is situated in the Greenwich Village section of Manhattan...

 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.

Lee died from cancer
Cancer
Cancer , known medically as a malignant neoplasm, is a large group of different diseases, all involving unregulated cell growth. In cancer, cells divide and grow uncontrollably, forming malignant tumors, and invade nearby parts of the body. The cancer may also spread to more distant parts of the...

 in 2000 in Tijuana, Mexico. She was survived by her husband and children.

Solo albums and records by small ensembles

  • The Newest Sound Around (1962; with Ran Blake
    Ran Blake
    Ran Blake is an American pianist and composer from Springfield, Massachusetts. In a career that spans five decades, Blake has created a unique niche in improvised music as an artist and educator...

    )
  • Spirits (1972; with Gunter Hampel and Perry Robinson)
  • Familie (1972; with Gunter Hampel and Anthony Braxton)
  • Conspiracy (1974; first solo record, with Gunter Hampel, Sam Rivers, Jack Gregg, and others)
  • Oasis (1978; with Gunter Hampel)
  • Nuba
    Nuba (album)
    Nuba is an album by American jazz drummer Andrew Cyrille, vocalist Jeanne Lee, and saxophonist Jimmy Lyons recorded in 1979 for the Italian Black Saint label.-Reception:...

    (1979; with Andrew Cyrille and Jimmy Lyons)
  • Freedom of the Universe (1979; with Gunter Hampel)
  • You Stepped Out of a Cloud (1989; with Ran Blake)
  • Natural Affinities (1992; second solo record, with Dave Holland, Gunter Hampel, Amina Claudine Myers, and others)
  • Here and Now (1993; with David Eyges)
  • After Hours
    After Hours (Jeanne Lee album)
    After Hours is an album by jazz singer Jeanne Lee and pianist Mal Waldron recorded in 1994 and released on the Owl label.-Reception:The Allmusic review by Scott Yanow states "Waldron's accompaniment is typically rhythmic, creatively repetitive, brooding and personal...

    (1994; with Mal Waldron and Toru Tenda)
  • Travellin' In Soul-Time (1995; with Mal Waldron and Toru Tenda)
  • White Road Black Rain (1995; with Mal Waldron and Toru Tenda)
  • Duo (1996; with Gunter Hampel)

Large ensembles

  • Marion Brown
    Marion Brown
    Marion Brown was a jazz alto saxophonist and ethnomusicologist. He is most well known as a member of the 1960s avant-garde jazz scene in New York City, playing alongside musicians such as John Coltrane, Archie Shepp, and John Tchicai...

     – In Sommerhausen (1969)
  • Archie Shepp
    Archie Shepp
    Archie Shepp is a prominent African-American jazz saxophonist. Shepp is best known for his passionately Afrocentric music of the late 1960s, which focused on highlighting the injustices faced by the African-Americans, as well as for his work with the New York Contemporary Five, Horace Parlan, and...

     – Blase (1969)
  • Gunter Hampel – People Symphony (1970)
  • Marion Brown – Afternoon of a Georgia Faun
    Afternoon of a Georgia Faun
    Afternoon of a Georgia Faun is an album by American jazz saxophonist Marion Brown recorded in 1970 and released on the ECM label.-Reception:...

    (ECM, 1970)
  • Carla Bley
    Carla Bley
    Carla Bley, née Borg, is an American jazz composer, pianist, organist and band leader. An important figure in the Free Jazz movement of the 1960s, she is perhaps best known for her jazz opera Escalator Over The Hill , as well as a book of compositions that have been performed by many other...

     – Escalator over the Hill
    Escalator over the Hill
    Escalator over the Hill is mostly referred to as a jazz opera, but it was released as a "chronotransduction" with "words by Paul Haines, adaptation and music by Carla Bley, production and coordination by Michael Mantler", performed by the Jazz Composer's Orchestra.-History:Escalator over the Hill...

    (1971)
  • Vocal Summit – Sorrow is not Forever – Love Is (1972)
  • Enrico Rava – Pupa o Crisalide (1973)
  • Enrico Rava – Quotation Marks (1973)
  • Andrew Cyrille – Celebration (1975)
  • Marcello Melis – Free To Dance (1978)
  • Gunter Hampel Big Band Vol. 1 – Cavana (1981)
  • Gunter Hampel Big Band Vol. 2 – Generator (1981)
  • Bob Moses – When Elephants Dream of Music (1982)
  • Archie Shepp
    Archie Shepp
    Archie Shepp is a prominent African-American jazz saxophonist. Shepp is best known for his passionately Afrocentric music of the late 1960s, which focused on highlighting the injustices faced by the African-Americans, as well as for his work with the New York Contemporary Five, Horace Parlan, and...

     – African Moods (1984)
  • Bob Moses – Wheels of Colored Light (1992)
  • Jane Bunnett – The Water is Wide (1993)
  • Mal Waldron – Soul Eyes (1997)

Selected compositions

  • In These Last Days, poem/composition (1973)
  • Prayer for Our Time, jazz oratorio (1976)
  • La Conference des oiseaux, jazz opera
  • Emergence, five-part suite

External links

  • [ Jeanne Lee] at Allmusic
  • Discography of Jeanne Lee recordings
  • Jeanne Lee discography at Discogs
    Discogs
    Discogs, short for discographies, is a website and database of information about audio recordings, including commercial releases, promotional releases, and bootleg or off-label releases. The Discogs servers, currently hosted under the domain name discogs.com, are owned by Zink Media, Inc., and are...

  • Jeanne Lee informal biography (with a photo)
  • Jeanne Lee obituary (with a photo)