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Take Five With Scott Lee

AAJ Staff By

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Meet Scott Lee:

Scott Lee switched from a career in tennis at UNC-CH to jazz, after hearing the Bill Evans Trio. Arriving in NY in the '70s, he worked with Chet Baker, Lee Konitz, Al Cohn, Red Rodney, Freddie Hubbard, Joe Lovano, Kenny Werner, Andy Statman, Chris Conner, Morgana King, Helen Merrill, Betty Buckley, and Anita O'Day.

In the orchestral world, he has performed with the Metropolitan Opera Guild and the world premiere of Charles Ives' "Universe Symphony." Scott has three CDs as leader/composer: With Ease, One Though, and Leaving.

He has finished his first book, Playing the Body Playing the Bass, created the DVD, Qi Gong for Musicians, and is a Reiki Master.


Acoustic and electric basses.

Teachers and/or influences? Charlie Banacos, Dave Holland, Tiny Martin, Homer Mensch. Influenced by years of playing with Joe Lovano and Kenny Werner.

I knew I wanted to be a musician when... I heard Eddie Gomez playing with the Bill Evans Trio in Raleigh, N.C., in 1970, and decided that I wanted to be a bassist. I quit the tennis team at UNC-CH and started playing the bass.

Your sound and approach to music: I prefer an old school, "air-pushing" and decaying sound, yet one that has a modern point to the note that adds definition. I like being able to play all kinds of music, but really love playing melody driven music that has an organic mix of the written and freely improvised.

Your teaching approach: I try to take each student as having their own unique potential, and always begin with a focus on learning how to learn. I stress concentration, relaxation, and enjoyment of the process.

Your dream band:

The group that is on my latest CD on Steeplechase, Leaving, satisfies on all levels: Billy Drewes, Gary Versace, and Jeff Hirshfield can play any level of difficulty and interact fluently with all kinds of improvisational options.

Road story: Your best or worst experience: Chet Baker asked me, Phil Markowitz and Jeff Brillinger if we knew the old tun "Milestones," and we all said "no." So, he says "One, Two, One-Two-Three-Four!" We had to play a tune we did not know, and it was a live recording and radio broadcast throughout northern Europe.

Favorite venue:

The Village Vanguard.

Your favorite recording in your discography and why? One Thought (Steeplechase Records). I love the interaction of the two saxophonists (Loren Stillman and Andrew Rathbun). And George Colligan really plays beautifully with Jeff Hirshfield.

The first Jazz album I bought was: Kind of Blue.

What do you think is the most important thing you are contributing musically? I think that my tunes combine a melodic underpinning to a modern concept of having the written sound like the freely improvised. I am always seeking the marriage of the loose and the organized.

Did you know...

I love to read, and my hobby is studying things that have to with Eastern martial arts and energy work.

CDs you are listening to now:

Owen Howard, Drumlore (BJU Records);

Rez Abbasi, Snake Charmer (Earth Sounds);

Joe Lovano, Folk Art (Blue Note);

Kenny Werner, Democracy.

Desert Island picks:

Wayne Shorter, Native Dancer;

Miles Davis, Kind of Blue;

Take Six, Take Six;

Any and all Aretha Franklin and Stevie Wonder;

John Coltrane, Greatest Hits.

How would you describe the state of jazz today? Vibrant, amazing, fertile...and yet, the fan base is too small and only the top-tier players can expect to make a decent living.

What are some of the essential requirements to keep jazz alive and growing? The music schools are the main engine for creating young lovers and supporters of the music.

What is in the near future? I have a new recording with a tenor trio group featuring Andrew Rathbun and Jeff Hirshfield, with compositions from Andrew and myself. And we just recorded another CD with the same group as on Leaving, with Billy Drewes, Gary Versace, and Jeff Hirshfield, that showcase more of Billy's compositions.

By Day:

I am a father of a teenage daughter and teach privately in NYC and am a faculty member in the jazz department at Kutztown University.

If I weren't a jazz musician, I would be a: Tennis or golf instructor, or acupuncturist.

Photo Credit

Courtesy of Scott Lee


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Take Five With...
CD/LP/Track Review
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SteepleChase Records


With Ease / Jazzblues

Cathexis Records


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