I've heard so much great press about the unique sounds of Richard Lee, I grabbed my pen and headed into Terra Blues (where I found out he works when he's taking a break from playing with all the famous players of the world) and humbly asked for a few minutes of his time...(above are recent pics of his band, "Stop Irrational Logic.")
So you're the hottest trumpet and flugel horn player around I hear?
I'm a member of the band Stop Irrational Logic and I also manage here (Terra Blues in the Village). I play every night...
Really? What kind of music?
My band is a combination of blues, funk...I love to party, Dead Shows...my goal is to reach the young that like to be free, I made my music for them.
What well known musicians inspire/inspired you?
Clifford Brown, Miles Davis, The Grateful Dead, Fish, Massive Attack...
When did you learn how to play?
I was about eleven, I had no talent as a kid, it was an escape for me. I was a working musician at fourteen.
I had a lot of obstacles to overcome as a musician.
What do you mean by obstacles?
Well, I was tone deaf, which makes it that much harder to learn music. I drilled the A note into my head by picking up the phone (especially pay phones, their dial tones were really loud back then), that's how I taught myself that note.
That's some determination to learn!
I believe anyone can do anything if they have the desire to do it. I'm just a Brooklyn kid who ended up writing notes for Mick Jagger...wrote the horn lines for his song, "Sweet Thing" on the "Wondering Spirit" album...I played with Squeeze, Steely Dan, Rick Derringer, The Blues Travelers, Joan Osborne, Tom Jones, it's a very big list.
Who was the most memorable?
I was the most nervous playing with McCoy Tyner, he played with Charlie Parker.
What was Mick Jagger like?
We never met, just went there and recorded for him...
What's it like being a manager at the most famous Jazz club in the city?
Amazing, as the manager, I do everything; run the club, hire, lights, sound, security, money, play some tunes...we get the best talent here.
Ever manage clubs before?
(hesitating) All the topless places; New York Dolls, Private Eyes, Flash Dancers (first topless club in New York City), before that I was a Pentecostal Minister...
You're kidding, right?
(laughing) Nope, that's where I played, got my roots: Pucho, Latin Souls Brothers (now in the Latin Hall of Fame).
Recent musical gigs?
Just did the Lake George Jazz Fest last week.
[Leaves momentarily to play on stage with the band. While he plays I'm in awe. I've never heard anything like that before, it's so unique...I can't believe how easily he just switches from manager to musician persona, how the audience just froze, (stopped talking and just listened); letting their minds, bodies and souls be taken over by the legendary sounds of the Micheal Powers Band and Micheal Lee's instruments]
That was great, you are a great collaborator!
Thank you, I give people I work with the foundation to create something together, a lot of great musicians can't do this...
Do you believe New York's where it's at?
(Pondering) Well, yes and no...wow, I'm a little jaded about New York, "to be or not to be?" it's good to be here, it's the only place there are no borders...
After 911..when Bush came into office, I changed my band's name from Irrational Logic to Stop Irrational Logic...I might change it when he leaves.
If you could work with anyone?
(laughing) Charlie Parker, he's dead but if I coud play a gig-he plays sax...Charlie Parker was the first one to take the structure out of music and open jazz up to feeling and interpretation.
What makes you do what you do?
(very seriously) Life..watching people die (several of his families members succumbed to cancer in his youth), being the fat kid people made fun of...some people get angry of their difficult past, it helped me become a better person. I feel attached to the universe when I play, I want to forget time, space...we are all connected.
Was music always your first goal?
Pretty much. In college, I was into numbers, math, science...if you can create the right interval, if you can tap into the right vibration, you can create perfection...
I'm ready to learn an instrument right now, I'm very inspired with all this talk of music, playing music and being free, what a great way to live.
It is! (smiling and walking away to greet guests at the door at Terra Blues).
Come listen to this great jazz player and check out his web site for dates, shows, and other amazing info!