Pianist, composer,and bandleader Lee Shaw is a youthful octogenarian who has more energy, passion, intellectual curiosity than many people a fraction of her age. She has had her own swinging, acoustic jazz piano trio for more than 40 years, during which time she performed in numerous clubs, concerts, festivals in the United States and Europe. Her latest CD/DVD, Live in Graz, brings us face to face with this genius of jazz who is finally receiving her due.
Lee Shaw has laser-like musical intensity, true mastery of the piano, and her tonal palette is huge. Owen McNally of The Hartford Courant notes that Lee Shaw is, a modest, irresistible person of immodest, irrepressible talent. She comes across both in the interview and at the keyboard as an artist who had a virtually religious calling for jazz, come what may. Bill Milkowski, in Jazz Times, observes , "her harmonic language is expansive, her time impeccable, her touch divine."
Born in Cushing, Oklahoma in 1926, she grew up in Ada,Oklahoma. Shaw learned the "American Songbook" tunes when they were new. She had a voracious appetite for music of all kinds: "I loved music, I wanted to carry it with me wherever I went. That's why I was really happy when tape recorders came along!" She graduated from the Oklahoma college for Women and earned her Masters Degree in piano from the American Conservatory of Music in Chicago, but the lure of jazz came strong, soon she was playing in clubs all over the city.
It was in Chicago that she met drummer Stan Shaw, and they formed a piano trio. Shortly after their marriage in 1962, the couple moved to Puerto Rico, and while there Lee studied with Jesu Maria Sanroma at Conservatorio de Msica de Puerto Rico. She credits her club concert playing during this period for the influence Latin music has had on her composing and playing. A year later the couple moved to New York, playing their first gig at The Embers. Other city engagements included the Village Vanguard, the Half Note, Minton's Playhouse and other clubs in Harlem.The trio also performed at the Apollo theatre, the benefit for the Dr. Martin Luther King march on Washington.
Over the years, Shaw studied with Oscar Peterson, taught piano to John Medeski, worked with countless jazz luminaries including Arnie Lawrence, Frank Foster, Pepper Adams, Zoot Simms, Al Cohn, Al Grey, Richard Davis, Slam Stewart, Eddie Jones, Eugene Wright, and Jymie Merritt. Bandleaders such as Lionel Hampton, asked her to join their groups, but she turned down these offers in order to focus on the trio. In 1993 she was inducted into the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame.
Eventually Lee and Stan moved to Albany, New York as they continued to play with big name musicians near home and on the road. In the mid 1990s, Lee and bassist Rich Syracuse began playing as a duo because of Stan's increasing disability. Jeff (Siege) Siegel joined as drummer after Stan's death in 2001, and a new incarnation of the trio formed.
The Lee Shaw Trio has appeared at the Mary Lou Williams Jazz Festival at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC. New York state performances include Hyde Museum, Saugerties Pro Musica, Adirondack Community College, Wall Street Jazz Festival, North Pointe Cultural Arts Center, Spencertown Academy, and two appearances at the Lake George Jazz Festival, Rensselaerville Institute. Capital District concert dates include Schenectady Museum, SUNY Albany, the concert series A Place for Jazz, and their CD release concert in the new Massry Center for the Arts. In Oklahoma, the trio has played at Oklahoma Central University, and twice at the East Central University, University of Science and Arts. In 2006, Lee Shaw and bassist Rich Syracuse played a concert at Steinway Hall in San Jose, California. Lee has also appeared on Marian McPartlands Piano Jazz program, and NPR hailed her, along with McPartland, the late Mary Lou Williams, as one of jazzs premier pianists.
In 2007 the trio embarked on their three country tour in Europe, where they performed concerts in Austria, Switzerland, and Germany. One of the Austrian concerts was recorded by the Austrian Broadcast Company and became the centerpiece of their 2008 release "Live in Graz" CD/DVD. The German concert, held at the art gallery and concert hall, World of Basses in Reutlingen, prompted owner and musical instrument dealer Tobias Festl to organize the Lee Shaw Jazz Festival for September of 2008. This unique venue draws together an eclectic mix of visual arts and jazz, and in performance allows for a cultural exchange of musicians from around the world. Guest appearances at the Lee Shaw Jazz Festival included noted European musicians Nils Wogram, Torsten Goodes, Julian Wasserfuhr, Cecile Vendry, and Harry Sokol. The trio returned to Europe in May of 2009 playing concerts in Vienna, and various venues in Germany. They also recorded with three European music
"BLOSSOM" - ARC
(Artists Recording Collective)
Produced by Jeff "Seige" Seigel & Rich Syracuse
“LIVE IN GRAZ “ – ARC (Artists Recording Collective)
The Live at Graz CD/DVD collection is co-produced by Jeff (Siege) Siegel and Rich Syracuse. It’s comprised of audio recordings, video footage, and still photography from their 2007 European Tour and subsequent interviews. The Austrian Broadcast Company recorded a two hour concert at Café Stockwerk in Graz, Austria, and portions of that concert make up the CD. Five of the eight songs that are Lee Shaw originals are a testament to her formidable gifts as a composer. Although she had composed for decades, it was only at Rich Syracuse’s urging that Lee began performing these pieces publicly.
The concert footage on the DVD confirms what is clear on the CD; this is an incredibly tight trio that plays with real telepathy. Each of Shaw's solos is a self-contained musical journey in which a perfect narrative arc is created. The solos often arise from the smallest melodic seeds, which then bear spectacular fruit. Her band mates are always right behind her, reacting to every turn.
“ORIGINALS” – Island View Records
“LITTLE FRIEND” – Luvlee records
“A PLACE FOR JAZZ” -- Cadence Records
“ESSENCE” -- CIMP
“LEE SHAW OK!” – Cadence Records
Sets are typically 60 minutes long. We generally play
two sets per concert. Sets normally consist of 7 songs - half of which are original compositions and jazz standards by the likes of Ahmad Jamal, Billy Taylor, Cole Porter, Howard Arlen, etc.