John Lee produces the kind of music that you want to introduce to your friends, yet you don’t quite know how to describe it. This is the latest band that has been all over my radar these days. Last Friday I was introduced to his smooth, soulful jazz jams at Jazz in the (National Gallery of Art) Sculpture Garden. My friends and I liked his tunes so much that last night, we re-visited him at a weekly gig he does every Tuesday up on 15th and U St. at the restaurant, Jo Jo.
John Lee (at left in the above photo) is a jazz guitar master, who along with the rest of his seemingly ever-changing accompanying band, produces an intriguing blend of scat-like jazz with standards, and melodious layers of sound. Sometimes it seems he’s inspired by Pink Floyd’s mellow rock. Other times, you can hear a cool, beach-like vibe flow by (like on his song, “In The Ground”), and still other times you get more of a whif of funk (like with the horns on, “Chinese Reggae”). For some music samplings and more information on John Lee, his uniquely named website is: www.chineseirishman.com.
Last Friday, I was especially drawn to the Flugal Horn in the band. Apparently it was the first time they were playing with that fellow (who also played trumpet as seen above). According to a friend who has played both the rarely seen instrument, it has a more mellow sound than its common cousin, the brassy trumpet. The Flugal horn’s cooler sound fits in nicely with the chill tunes that John Lee and co. create.
Friday’s concert kept its listeners excited when the band moved into Hip Hop territory from its already genre-morphing niche of jazz-rock. With the addition of a vocalist, John Lee and his band successfully brought together their sound to back up the rapping stylings of their additional member. The Hip Hop surprise flowed nicely and agreed with the band.
Another band member to take note of is the youngun’, almost 21 year old drummer Graham Dody. He may still be in college, but it is pretty evident that this boy knows his way around a drum set. During last night’s set at Jo Jo, Graham showed off during his numerous solos that he was more than able to take the helm behind the drums. Also, I’ve come to realize that every successful band needs to have at least one Jew Fro (which these bands can definitely vouch for), so Graham Dody’s good in my book!
So next time John Lee is in your area, I recommend you check him out and listen in. His morphing style lends itself well to many different types of music. Thus, if you find yourself listening to a piece you might not care as much for, just wait for the next jam. His music will come around to you, and you’ll be pleased you gave it a chance.