Invoice Lee, a jazz bassist and composer who scored the early movies of his son Spike Lee, wrote folk-jazz operas, led an acclaimed ensemble of bassists and was a prolific sideman for Bob Dylan, Aretha Franklin and others, died on Wednesday morning at his house in Brooklyn. He was 94.
Spike Lee confirmed the demise.
Over six a long time, in 1000’s of dwell performances and on greater than 250 report albums, Mr. Lee’s mellow and ebullient string bass accompanied a pantheon of music stars, together with as properly Duke Ellington, Arlo Guthrie, Odetta, Simon and Garfunkel, Harry Belafonte, Ian & Sylvia, Judy Collins, Tom Paxton and Peter, Paul and Mary.
Mr. Lee wrote the soundtracks for Spike Lee’s first 4 function movies, a musical problem that referred to as for capturing the independence of a romantic Black lady in “She’s Gotta Have It” (1986), a satirical take a look at life at a Black school in “College Daze” (1988), racial violence in “Do the Proper Factor” (1989) and the poignant hardships of a Black jazz musician in “Mo’ Higher Blues” (1990).
Invoice Lee had small components in all however “Do the Proper Factor,” and Spike Lee’s sister, Joie, had roles in all 4. Invoice Lee additionally scored an early Spike Lee brief, “Joe’s Mattress-Stuy Barbershop: We Lower Heads,” the primary scholar movie to be showcased at Lincoln Middle’s New Administrators/New Movies Competition, in 1983.
The function movies received largely constructive critiques and reaped sizable income. Invoice and Spike Lee had a falling-out within the early Nineteen Nineties, over household issues, cash and different points, that ended their collaboration. Later Spike Lee movies — he has directed greater than 30, showing in lots of them himself — had been scored by the trumpeter Terence Blanchard.
Born into an Alabama household of musicians and educators who instilled a ardour for music in him and his siblings, Invoice Lee discovered drums, piano and flute early on. He attended segregated small-town public faculties and studied music at traditionally Black Morehouse School in Atlanta.
Impressed in his early 20s by listening to the nice jazz saxophonist Charlie Parker, Mr. Lee mastered the double bass, the biggest and lowest-pitched stringed instrument, and carried out with small jazz teams in Atlanta and Chicago earlier than migrating to New York Metropolis in 1959.
Over the following decade, Mr. Lee, who favored a battered straw hat and infrequently recited his personal poetry between numbers, carried out typically in piano-bass duos and piano-bass-drums trios in smoky golf equipment that served soul meals with jazz, many on the western fringe of Greenwich Village, squeezed amongst meatpacking homes and trucking depots on Manhattan’s Hudson River shoreline.
He recorded extensively on Strata-East Data, a musician-owned label, and based and directed the New York Bass Violin Choir, a troupe of seven basses, generally accompanied by piano or saxophone. Critics lauded the ensemble for weaving an agile concord of pastel and harsh moods in performing Mr. Lee’s people operas at City Corridor, Alice Tully Corridor at Lincoln Middle and the Newport Jazz Competition.
His quite a few operas, together with “One Mile East,” “The Depot” and “Child Sweets,” had been primarily based on folks and occasions from his formative years within the South. They generally drew on the singing abilities of Mr. Lee and his two sisters, Consuela Lee Moorehead, a jazz pianist and music trainer at Hampton College in Virginia, and Grace Lee Mims, a librarian, whose voices lent grandiloquent shade to the tales.
In a evaluation of a efficiency by the Violin Choir on the Newport Jazz Competition in 1971, John S. Wilson of The New York Instances wrote: “Mr. Lee served as bassist, singer and narrator of his sketches of small-town life in Snow Hill, Ala., constructing each his tales and his music from a wealthy vein of folks sources. His crew of bassists, bending over their unwieldy devices, produced ensemble passages that had been by turns gorgeously heat and singing or so surprisingly mild and ethereal that one suspected a few flutes is likely to be hiding amongst them.”
Within the Nineteen Seventies, when the electrical bass grew to become an instrument of selection in lots of jazz ensembles as a result of its thumping tones suited the business sounds of jazz-rock fusion, Mr. Lee, an acoustic bass purist, refused to go alongside and misplaced work consequently. “Some stuff you simply can’t dwell with,” he informed The Boston Globe in 1992. “Simply fascinated by doing it, my intestine response hit me so laborious within the abdomen. I knew I might by no means dwell with myself.”
Spike Lee explored the issue of commercialism, with its racial implications, in “Mo’ Higher Blues,” which starred Denzel Washington as a jazz trumpeter who fights exploitation by white membership homeowners.
“Musicians are low-priced slaves, whereas athletes and entertainers are high-priced slaves,” Spike Lee informed The Instances when the movie opened. “It’s their music, however it’s not their nightclub, it’s not their report firm. They’ve an understanding solely of the music, not of the enterprise, so that they get handled any previous manner.”
Regardless of different variations, Invoice and Spike Lee agreed about integrity. “All the things I learn about jazz I obtained from my father,” Spike Lee informed The Instances in 1990. “I noticed his integrity, how he was not going to play simply any type of music, regardless of how a lot cash he might make.”
William James Edwards Lee was born in Snow Hill on July 23, 1928, to Arnold Lee, a cornet participant and band director at Florida A&M College, and Alberta Grace (Edwards) Lee, a classical live performance pianist and trainer. Along with his sisters Consuela and Grace, he had 4 different siblings, Clifton, Arnold Jr., Leonard and Clarence.
Their maternal grandfather, William J. Edwards, a graduate of Booker T. Washington’s Tuskegee Institute, based a log-cabin arts faculty for Black college students in Snow Hill in 1893. By 1918, the Snow Hill Regular and Industrial Institute had 24 buildings and 300 to 400 college students pursuing educational topics and vocational coaching. Mr. Edwards died a number of years later, however the institute survived as a segregated public faculty till 1973, when it closed. Invoice Lee graduated from there within the mid-Forties.
Mr. Lee and his first spouse, Jacquelyn (Shelton) Lee, an artwork trainer, had 5 kids: Shelton (Spike), Christopher, David, Joie and Cinque. After Jacquelyn’s demise in 1976, Mr. Lee married Susan Kaplan. That they had one son, Arnold. Christopher died in 2013. Mr. Lee’s sister Consuela died at 83 in 2009, and his sister Grace Lee Mims died at 89 in 2019.
Along with Spike Lee, he’s survived by his spouse; his sons David, Cinque and Arnold; his daughter, Joie; a brother, A. Clifton Lee; and two grandchildren.
After arriving in New York, Mr. Lee settled in Fort Greene, a Brooklyn neighborhood that grew to become a magnet for Black musicians and different inventive artists who took delight of their life and their artwork. The neighborhood was the setting for “She’s Gotta Have It.”
The Lee family, overlooking Fort Greene Park, all however banished tv however was awash in music, typically with jam periods that went late into the evening, prompting noise complaints from neighbors however spawning jazz artists who discovered their sounds within the coronary heart of Brooklyn.
Throughout a 2008 interview with The Instances at his house, Mr. Lee performed piano and double bass. “His music has the complicated harmonies of bebop and laborious bop, however it additionally has a honest, down-home, churchy really feel,” the reporter Corey Kilgannon wrote. “His passages transfer in attention-grabbing and sudden locations, however they resolve earlier than lengthy in a manner that’s easy and honest, earthy and one way or the other very satisfying.”