b. Cleveland, Ohio, USA. A gifted tenor saxophonist, Lee studied music at Cleveland State University and the College Conservatory of Music at the University of Cincinnati. He gained experience, performing in his home town, Cincinnati, Toledo, Pittsburgh, Youngstown and also further afield in Toronto. Later, Lee studied with Joe Lovano in New York. In 1990, he joined the Woody Herman Orchestra, touring with the tribute band until early the following year. His recording debut, The Quiet Answer, also came in 1990.
Among many artists with whom Lee has performed are Geri Allen, Marcus Belgrave and Bobby Watson, co-leading bands with all three, Lovano, Rosemary Clooney, Marlon Jordan and Johnny Coles. He toured with Lovano’s Celebrating Sinatra package. He has also had extensive sideman experience, playing in large ensembles directed by or backing artists such as Ernestine Anderson, Kenny Barron, Louie Bellson, Gary Burton, Benny Carter, Natalie Cole, Eddie Daniels, Buddy De Franco, Harry ‘Sweets’ Edison, Claudio Roditi, Mel Tormé and Mark Whitfield. From the early 90s, Lee was resident in New York, playing with the Village Vanguard Orchestra, Maria Schneider’s orchestra, Ron Affif, Dave Douglas and Bill Mobley. With the latter’s big band, he recorded with James Williams, Harold Mabern and Mulgrew Miller. Lee’s activities continued into the late 90s, with two of his compositions rating in the top five at 1997’s Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz and BMI International Jazz Composers Competition. His touring schedule included dates with Benny Green, Marian McPartland and Freddie Cole and he has also played and recorded with his wife, Rebecca, a violinist, and guitarist John Hart.
Although orientated towards contemporary concepts in jazz, and displaying a marked interest in complex chord progressions, Lee, who also sometimes plays soprano saxophone, is a strikingly talented improviser. He is also active as an educator, conducting clinics and workshops for university jazz programmes.