Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music

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LEE, Jeanne

(b 29 Jan. '39, NYC; d 25 Oct. 2000, Mexico) Singer, composer; perhaps the most innovative vocalist to emerge from the avant-garde of the '60s, her art described as the first advance in jazz singing since Sarah Vaughan. She met Ran Blake, formed a duo with him and they toured Europe '63; albums included The Newest Sound Around '61 on RCA (The Legendary Duets reissued on a Bluebird CD '88). She moved to the West Coast '64, went back to Europe '67 and took up with vibraphonist and composer Gunter Hampel (b 31 Aug. '37, Göttingen, Lower Saxony), their recorded collaborations included Companion (with Thomas Keyserling), The 8th Of July 1969, Spirits '71, Journey To The Song Within '74, Fresh Heat: Live At Sweet Basil '85, all on Hampel's Birth label; also Oasis on Horo; her Conspiracy '74 on Earthform was made in NYC with Hampel, Sam Rivers, Steve McCall and several others. She has made duo recordings with other artists, always under their names: Blasé on Affinity and Archie Shepp/Jeanne Lee on Westwind, both with Shepp, are not among the best works of either, the Westwind suffering from bad recording balance which allowed Shepp to drown her out, among other things. Better were Afternoon Of A Georgia Faun '70 on ECM with Marion Brown, Town Hall 1972 on Trio with Anthony Braxton, Nuba '79 on Black Saint with Andrew Cyrille (and Jimmy Lyons). A reunion with Blake on You Stepped Out Of A Dream '89 on Owl was a delight, as was Here And Now! '93 on Word of Mouth with David Eyges on cello; Mal Waldron played for her on an album of standards After Hours '94 on Owl; Waldron's Travellin' In Soul-Time '95 was made on tour in Japan with Lee and Toru Tenda on flute. She also worked with Cecil Taylor, Enrico Rava, Sunny Murray and others; she has been influential and well-known among the cognoscenti but has had remarkably few opportunities to record, especially under her own name. She studied modern dance as a teenager; in recent years she concentrated on composing pieces to combine dance, poetry and song, such as Emergence (in five parts), oratorio A Prayer For Our Time (in ten acts).