It all started with a music teacher who needed to add some low end to her third grade orchestra. She picked the tallest kid in the room, who had his big hands wrapped around a cello at the time, and said “Hey! Take a look here, come play this upright bass!” That kid was Benjamin Lee, and once he heard the resonant tones of the largest instrument he had ever seen, he was hooked.
Born in Los Angeles, California, Ben grew up in an incredibly diverse soundscape. His first library of music was his father’s record collection, which melded Laurel Canyon sounds with classic rock, folk, jazz, soul, and spirituals. The music of James Taylor, Ray Charles, Duke Ellington, the Mamas and the Papas, Louis Armstrong, the Band, Thelonious Monk, Ella Fitzgerald, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Oscar Peterson, George Gershwin, Jelly Roll Morton, the Chieftains, the Eagles, the Who, Dave Brubeck, Art Tatum, Willie Nelson, Carol King, Oscar Peterson, Johnny Cash and Paul Simon influenced his ear at a very early age.
But as with many young upright players, his musical journey began with classical music. From the Fugue in G minor to the Firebird Suite, from John Williams to Sergei Prokofiev and Aaron Copland, Ben’s school orchestral experience took him to classical competitions in Seattle, Boston, San Francisco, and Los Angeles (including a performance with Mr. Williams at Disney Hall). Alongside his classical repertoire, Ben dove headfirst into an intense jazz education on both upright and electric bass.