Jeanne Lee Biography

29 January 1939, New York City, New York, USA, d. 25 October 2000, Tijuana, Mexico. Lee studied modern dance at Bard College (1956-60), where she met Ran Blake. They began to work as a duo, with Lee improvising on vocals, recording together in the early 60s (The Newest Sound Around) and toured Europe in 1963. In 1964, she moved to California and married the sound-poet David Hazelton. Returning to Europe in 1967, she began a long association with Gunter Hampel, recording with him on his Birth label on numerous occasions over the next two decades (notably The 8th Of July 1969, Spirits, Journey To The Song Within), including one entirely improvised session with him and Anthony Braxton in 1972.

Following her divorce from Hazelton, she and Hampel were married. Although a striking singer in conventional terms, with a strong, husky voice, Lee developed a new, inventive approach to vocals, often improvising wordlessly and using lip, throat and mouth sounds rather than standard pitches. In the 60s and 70s she was a prominent member of the jazz avant garde, working with fellow pioneers Archie Shepp (Blasé), Marion Brown (Afternoon Of A Georgia Faun), Braxton again (Town Hall 1972) and Enrico Rava, as well as recording her own Conspiracy (1974) and, later, in a trio with Andrew Cyrille and Jimmy Lyons.

In the 80s and 90s Lee worked with the group Vocal Summit (with Bobby McFerrin, Lauren Newton, Urszula Dudziak and Jay Clayton) and with the Reggie Workman Ensemble (Images), but concentrated more on writing her own material. Her works include a five-part suite, Emergence, and a 10-act oratorio, A Prayer For Our Time. In 1990, she again recorded with Blake, with whom she had, since 1976, taught in the Third Streamdepartment of the New England Conservatory Of Music. Lee died of cancer in 2000 in Mexico.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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