Biography

 

I grew up in Devon by the River Exe. I first fell in love with the violin, then discovered the bass guitar through the music of Blink 182. The bass led on to the guitar which has been my weapon of choice ever since. I've always liked rock and pop music and since primary school I've been running my own bands and exploring different kinds of music. I've been a choirboy and played mandolin in Devon based folk band Rough Music.  I got into jazz in high school, with the help of friends at Devon Youth Jazz Orchestra. 

 

A pivotal moment in my teen years came with Issie Barratt and the National Youth Jazz Collective, who gave me tuition from great teachers and introduced me to some like-minded contemporaries through the summer schools. My youth journey ended on a high note playing at the Barbican with the National Youth Choirs, my guitar soaring above 200 singers.

 

Birmingham Conservatoire  introduced me to the Birmingham jazz scene, with many opportunities to collaborate with talented colleagues and learn from tutors such as Jez Franks, Percy Pursglove, Andrew Bain, Mike Williams and Hans Koller. Masterclasses with Jeff Ballard, John Taylor, Kenny Garret, Joe Lovano, Mark Turner and Dave Holland were inspirational. My musical influences include Wes Montgomery, John Schofield, The Beatles, Frank Zappa and Grant Green.

 

I enjoyed working with the music promoter Beat City running the jam at the Yardbird, and then presented jazz every Thursday at Fleet Street Kitchen. We put on events throughout the city to add to the jazz scene whenever possible.

 

I ran Diverge at Cafe Ort, a monthly interdisciplinary performance programme creating new work and encouraging dialogue and collaboration between artists and art forms.

 

I lead BLQ, a group of graduates from the jazz course at Birmingham Conservatoire becoming noticed on the jazz scene in Birmingham and beyond, playing original music.


Our music has influences from rock, pop, jazz, folk, experimental music and more. It takes a lot from the jazz idiom but also encompass other things such as 12 tone composition and elements of symmetry, as well as minimalism. 

In March 2015 the Ben Lee Quintet was joined by a string quartet for my States project, with compositions on the themes of conflict and coexistence in nation states, as part of the Frontiers Festival. This was further developed as States 2.0 in the Autumn with a different narrative structure, and is destined to be reinvented in the future as Nation States.

I have considerable experience in leading jazz, rock and pop bands, ever since my days as a primary school pupil. I have my own band, the Ben Lee Quintet (BLQ), and perform with a range of other lineups. I am closely involved with performing, touring and recording with the following bands...

 

Three Step Manoeuvre - Exploring funk in an organ trio, chosen as one of the best funk albums of 2016 by a US funk blog.

 

GorillaBot - Surreal masked band getting noticed with street performance and festival appearances.

 

Avisya Rhythm - now TwoSpeak - London based band exploring different ways of using rhythm in writing and playing music. A groove centred blend of jazz, folk and world.

 

Antelope - Modern soul with a massive sound

 

Ferris-Lee-Weir - Grooving funky organ trio original music inspired by Larry Goldings, Jimmy Smith and more.

 

Birmingham Jazz Orchestra - Showcasing the composing and improvising talents of players from the Birmingham jazz scene

Fervour -  A 5 piece band playing original music which draws on the jazz tradition alongside the earthy grooves of blues, rock and more.

I keep in touch with old friends from Devon in a fun covers band called Gobi. I am regularly called upon to be a session musician in other bands around the country, in the reading band for cruise ships such as the P&0 Ventura, the pit orchestra for shows such as Footloose, and duos with a singer for weddings.

 

In 2015 I was lucky enough to be mentioned twice in the End of Year Lists in London Jazz News, once in the “Musicians under 35 who have made an impression in 2015” category, nominated by Tony Dudley-Evans, and once in a wish list for a wider audience for my States project, nominated by Peter Bacon.

 

With BLQ I was fortunate in securing support from Arts Council England towards a UK tour in 2016, including gigs at Mostly Jazz Funk and Soul and Manchester Jazz Festival, promoting my debut album "In The Tree"

 

I  lead the Devon Youth Jazz Orchestra’s Ambassadors programme, taking a band of the most talented members of DYJO into local schools to offer a first jazz experience to primary school students.

 

The future holds performance and recording opportunities with GorillaBot, Three Step Manoeuvre, TwoSpeak, Fervour, Antelope and BLQ, in addition to function work, teaching, composing and travel. 

 

© 2017 Ben Lee.

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