Thursday, November 20, 2008
Honoring Legendary Jazz Musician Bill Lee
On the Stated held yesterday, Council Member Letitia James and the New York City Council honored legendary jazz musician William “Bill” James Edwards Lee III, with a proclamation for his life’s work.
William "Bill" James Edwards Lee III was born on July 23, 1928, and is an American musician. The jazz musician, composer, educator and acoustic bassist was born in Snow Hill, Alabama more than 80 years ago. He now lives Brooklyn's 35 District with his wife Susan.
This profound jazzman continued in the footsteps of his parents, Arnold and Alberta. Bill Lee’s father was the first bandmaster of Bethune-Cookman College, and his mother was a concert pianist, (also Bill Lee’s grandfather- his namesake- graduated from Tuskegee Institute and founded the school Snow Hill Normal and Industrial Institute.) Today, Bill Lee is the father of five boys and a girl, including director Spike Lee; he has composed original music for many of his son's films, such as She's Gotta Have It; School Daze; Do the Right Thing; and Mo' Better Blues. His children by his first wife Jackie (deceased) are: Spike; Chris; David; Joie; and Cinque; and his youngest son, with his second wife Susan is Arnold VI.
While residing in Brooklyn for the last 50 years, Bill Lee has had the opportunity to be in the presence of the greatest performers on the planet, and has written more than eleven folk–jazz operas. He has played the bass for many artists including Aretha Franklin, and Bob Dylan. Bill Lee has recorded with Billy Wallace; Frank Strozier; Bob Dylan; Chris Anderson; Johnny Griffin; Bruce Langhorne; Chad Mitchell; Eric Weissberg; Ray Bryant; and Judy Collin; to name a few, and he wrote for Max Roach; Richard Davis; Ted Dunbar; Booker Little; Muriel Winston; Clifford Jordan; Donald Harrison; and others. Bill Lee also appeared with Billie Holiday; Sarah Vaughn; Dinah Washington; Carmen Mc Rae; Betty Carter; Dizzy Gillespie; Clifford Brown; Art Blakey; Duke Ellington; Billy Strayhorn; and hundreds of more great musicians.
Bill Lee is the founder of the New York Bass, Violin Choir, and he continues to mentor up-and-coming musicians.
(Photo courtesy of William Alatriste, New York City Council)