Jeanne Lee

Vocalist, born New York, 1939-2000

She met Ran Blake at college and they began to improvise together on The Newest Sound Around (Bluebird, 1962)

Relocating to Europe in 1967, she joined Gunter Hampel's ensemble and provided vocals for his albums between 1968 and 1983, such as The 8th July 1969 (Birth, 1969), Ballet-Symphony (Birth, 197O) Spirits (Birth, 1971), Journey to the Song Within (Birth, 1974), Freedom Of The Universe (Birth, 1979) and Companion (Birth, 1982). as well as the duo albums Gunter Hampel Group + Jeanne Lee (Wergo, 1968) and Oasis (Horo, 1978) and the trio with Anthony Braxton Family (Birth, 1972).

She was also featured on masterpieces of the era such as Archie Shepp's Blase (1969), Carla Bley's Escalator Over the Hill (197O) and Marion Brown's Afternoon Of A Georgia Faun (1970).

Her first solo album, Conspiracy (Earthform, 1974) displayed her creative style, which expanded the jazz vocabulary with gestures borrowed from Tibet and India, inspired by Yma Sumac, taking advantage not only of the "voice" but also of lip and throat sounds.

A trio with Andrew Cyrille and Jimmy Lyons yielded Nuba (Black Saint, 1979).

Other collaborations included: Sorrow Is Not Forever (Keytone, 1983) with Vocal Summit, Archie Shepp & Jeanne Lee (West Wind, 1984), You Stepped Out Of A Cloud (OWL, 1989) with Blake, Here and Now (Word of Mouth, 1993) with David Eyges, After Hours (Owl, 1994) with Mal Waldron, White Road Black Rain (Tokuma, 1995) and Travelin' in Soul Time (Haast, 1995) with Mal Waldron and Toru Tenda, etc.

Natural Affinities (OWL, 1992), her second and last solo, is less cohesive and revolutionary than the first one. Mingus Meditations, an improvised duo with Dave Holland, and the pieces featuring Wadada Leo Smith on trumpet may be interesting but are hardly personal. Lee only shines on the Brazilian shuffle Ambrosia Mama/ Celebration of a State of Grace.

She also composed the jazz opera La Conference Des Oiseaux, the oratorio Prayer For Our Time, the five-part suite Emergence.

Jeanne Lee died in november 2000 of cancer.

Piero Scaruffi