Stephen M. Lee Releases "Music In The Key Of My Life"
Stephen M. Lee announced the release of his album, "Music In The Key Of My Life". The CD is a perfect jazz/gospel fusion, and features Doc Samba and James Sexton on electric bass and drums respectively. "Music In The Key Of My Life" is available at CD Baby, iTunes, eMusic, and Amazon.com.
Lee, who has worked with Kirk Whalum, Esperanza Spalding, and Gregory Porter said, "I'm a jazz pianist, but I wanted to make a CD that even those music lovers who aren't particularly jazz enthusiasts could enjoy. I'm pretty confident that I succeeded. I wrote 5 of the songs, and 3 are covers ("As The Deer", "God Has Smiled On Me", and "Glorious"). There are funk grooves, Latin sounds, classical music (Bach and Chopin preludes), R&B, laid back melodies, and traditional gospel songs/hymns that I rearranged. Over the past 20 years, I've been around so many types of musicians and have studied so many types of music that the various influences culminated into this project and came to life." Lee studied Studio Music and Jazz at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville under Donna Brown. He was also under the tutelage of Stephan Carlson, the Assistant Jazz Director at The University of Nevada.
Phoenix KJZZ on air personality and jazz musician Paul Anderson critiqued the album, stating, "Jazz pianist/composer Stephen M. Lee's new CD, "Music In The Key Of My Life" has the technique and the creative talent to keep me listening to cut after cut. The CD features Lee on piano, Doc Samba on electric bass, and James Sexton on drums for six of the eight tracks. This is an ensemble that connects and responds to each other very well on this intricately woven project. The first cut, "As The Dear" has attention grabbing funk with Doc Samba and drummer James Sexton putting it down while Stephen chords voicings with a nice modal mysterious traveler vibe. I really like the mix, and the tone on all the players blended very well. Stephen's piano solo will bring smiles to fans of Gene Harris, Herbie, Horace, or Joe Sample. Lee shows his musical prowess quickly and continues the momentum throughout the session. On "Here I Am, " Lee scores immediately with a series of fine classic arpeggios. The melody is catchy, and the arrangement is tight! Doc Samba is like a chameleon, changing his bass tone to a Banda style almost muted sound on the jazz waltz, "Coming Home." The engineer did a spectacular job on the mix, and the bass sound takes me back to Paul Jackson (Headhunters)! The melody uses some of the notes in Stephen's intro, and the drums really articulate a joyful energetic pattern, reminding me of some of my favorite Chick Corea tunes."
Anderson continued, "As a composer, Stephen Lee has a keen melodic sense. "A Messenger from God, " is one of standouts on this session. The ballad is a showcase of how well this ensemble plays together, and the time flows with an introspective and thoughtful piano from Mr. Lee. The energy level spikes on "God Has Smiled On Me", with clever use of fragments of the rhythm split between the bass and piano, and a main theme that has lots of energy, time breaks, and a big bass solo from Doc Samba. "God's Vision" is a Joe Sample type song, and is one of two live cuts with a different expanded ensemble. Melvin Smith holds down the main melody on tenor sax, playing a strong solo, and there are strings from keyboardist Ian Williams. Stephen chimes in on what sounds like an electric grand piano, popping those notes on his solo, and wailing with a huge sound from this group and an interesting vamp of chromatic rising chords. "Breathe On Me, " makes it very clear that Mr. Lee has lots to say, not just with jazz, but with strong components of Worship and Praise. The words conviction and power best describe vocalist/co-writer Martine Allford as she brings the lyrics to life, and the expanded ensemble of Styx Bones drums, with Ian Williams on keyboards, and also playing strings and woodwinds. The finale of the album is from a live performance, and is a strong finish to "Music In The Key Of My Life." I was greatly impressed by this CD, and Stephen Lee is living up to the promise of the gift of music. To quote Cannonball Adderley, continue to "Walk Tall." Stephen M. Lee's CD is, in this reviewer's opinion, a major tour de force."
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