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Jennifer Lee

In her debut solo album, "J-Walkin’," Jennifer Lee creates a mellow melting pot of newly arranged standards with a few surprises of her own. Almost daring not to impress, Lee takes on a unique style that we haven’t heard since the days of Sarah Vaughan and Billie Holiday. Rather than belting out the songs, Lee approaches them with sensitivity and emotion. The result is a luxurious CD in a classic tradition that is sure to impress even the most finicky jazz enthusiast.

The most profound quality about Lee is her ability to hone the musical depth of her vocals. Using her voice like an instrument in her rendition of "Blue Skies," Lee avoids a strong chord foundation in the song. Instead, she chooses to blend her voice with the musicians to create an intimate orchestra of complimentary vibrations. This swinging version is sure to set your toes to tapping.

Expressiveness is one of Lee’s hallmarks. The title song, "J-Walkin’," is an empowering story of inner strength. Lee felt an immediate energy when Peter Sprague, co-arranger/guitarist, introduced the song to her. It "really spoke to me," stated Lee. "For me, the message was getting past our own self-imposed limitations. That particular message could probably speak to a lot of women in our culture."

Encouraged by the positive examples in her own life, Lee looked to the San Francisco Bay area veteran, Kitty Margolis, as a mentor. Studying privately with Margolis built up her self-confidence. "She [Margolis] believed in me as a singer . . . encouraged me to do my first demo," said Lee. Margolis taught her "you really gotta press forward and put yourself out there, if you want to do this."

Lee gets a lot of her inspiration from those who have walked before her. One of her favorite singers is Mark Murphy. "When I started listening [to Murphy], it totally changed how I listen to music," stated Lee. Other inspirations include: Sarah Vaughan, Anita O’Day and Diane Reeves. Lee learned a lot by listening to these singers and believes that connecting with the audience is first and foremost. "Playing music and singing brings me the closest to connecting to everything."

That connectivity shows most strongly in "The Inchworm/Inchworm Rap." This special song features a gentle rap in a luxurious exchange of inner-reflection. Oddly enough, the "Inchworm Rap" didn’t develop itself overnight. Singing the song for a number of years, Lee tried arranging it in a variety of ways. However, it never fully blossomed until she started recording the CD. After plugging away for a few days in the studio, the message of the little inchworm became clear. She thought, "Hey, when are you going to get your head out of the details and look at the big picture." Thus, the "Inchworm Rap" was born.

Bringing the album to life is a couple of songs written by Lee. Delving into the human experience, Lee shines in a delicate "Note to My Niece." Tugging at your heartstrings, Lee shares the isolation felt when you love someone out of reach. "Cathy’s Song" was written for a dear friend and features Lee on piano without vocals. This adds a nice touch that shows the wide range of the artist’s capabilities. Lee is definitely not your average entertainer. She sings, plays piano, writes music and is an accomplished arranger.

A fan of ballads, Lee chose to arrange a delicate version of "I’m Old Fashioned." The acoustic bass and improvisation at the beginning draws the listener into this number. Singing only sounds and not words, she uses the soli to meld into the instrumentation. Lee liberally utilizes the soli format throughout the album, creating a wondrous flow of melodic layers. According to Lee, using the solis were Peter Sprague’s idea. Lee said that in making the album "[we] wanted arrangements to be unique and interesting."

In her quest to experiment with different sounds, Lee added a couple songs in Portuguese to the album. Although she admits to not speaking the language, the vibe she exudes on "Chega de Saudade" is most convincing. Lee’s ability to project a song to the audience is perhaps her most endearing quality. "Rosa/Claire de Lune," a Brazilian tune, was a challenge for Lee. She compares the poetic melody to the sonnets of Shakespeare. Lee describes the song as "ecstasy and agony of the most profoundly spiritual love imaginable."

For several years, Lee has captured an avid San Francisco following. Admittedly, she likes to wander among the crowd before each performance. Seeing their faces while she is onstage, helps to bring her music to life. Getting her start in the intimate local clubs was great training ground. Being featured on a multi-artist compilation entitled, "Quint-Essential" provided even more exposure. Recording this collection was a "really, really fun experience," where she "learned a lot." Singing three songs, Lee received her first airplay from this CD.

Current plans are for several concerts throughout California and Washington. If her live performances are anything like her CD, seeing Lee in person is well worth the trip. You can catch the latest tour information or purchase her independent CD, "J-Walkin’," at Jennifer’s website listed below.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Jennifer Lee
  • Subtitle: Jay Walkin'
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