Take Five With Mike Lee
What do you think is the most important thing you are contributing musically?
New Tricks has captured a special group dynamic that I feel is infectious and really growing through our recordings and our intense touring schedule. The Cecil's Big Band (which I lead) is a community within itself that's allowing cats in the band to flourish in other situationunfortunately, "flourishing" means half my band subs out on Monday nights to play at the Village Vanguard! And clearly the most important thing I contribute is instruction to my students, who I'm so proud of, including my sons, who are fluent in the jazz language and already have caught the ear of some important jazz artists.
Did you know...
I love travelling, hotel rooms, planes and especially long drives to gigs. Sometimes I'll take a gig just because I get to make a long drive. And when I'm not traveling I love to be with my beautiful family. Driving to soccer practice and ballet lessons, and helping with homework are activities I cherish.
CDs you are listening to now:
Tracks from Brandon McCune's as-yet-unreleased recording;
Duke Pearson, Honeybuns;
Bruce Williams, More To Go.
Desert Island picks:
Wayne Shorter, Speak No Evil (Blue Note);
Art Blakey, Free For All (Blue Note);
Charlie Parker, Complete Savoy and Dial Sessions;
Stan Getz with Oscar Peterson Trio;
John Coltrane, A Love Supreme.
How would you describe the state of jazz today?
Absolutely flourishing. People who gage the health of jazz by the income generated by record sales and number of radio stations are missing the point. They need to visit hundreds of schools and see the thousands of young musicians striving to become better jazz musicians. They need to see Smalls (and several other NYC clubs) at 3 am on a Wednesday morning, where musicians from across the globe stay up all night to jam. Don't confuse the health of the jazz industry with the health of the music.
What are some of the essential requirements to keep jazz alive and growing?
Jazz grows as long as people are creating it and dedicating themselves to their creative growth. Help students to have good instruction, good instruments and teach them the discipline to practice. Then go see in person, or online if you can't get there, all the brilliant musicians constantly creating throughout the globe.
What is in the near future?
New Tricks latest release, Alternate Side, is set to drop April 5th. We will be touring the Midwest from April 1st through April 18th and have numerous NYC gigs over the next few months.
Teaching private students, Coordinator of Music Programming for Jazz House Kids and practicing!
If I weren't a jazz musician, I would be a:
A professional golfer; it's all about the swing!
Dennis Connors, Courtesy of Mike Lee