Lee Barbour's Polyverse
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Lee Barbour's Polyverse

Charleston, South Carolina, United States | Established. Jan 01, 2019 | SELF | AFTRA

Charleston, South Carolina, United States | SELF | AFTRA
Established on Jan, 2019
Band Jazz Instrumental

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"String Theorist"

From Pane e Vino to The Pour House, Voodoo to Charleston Grill: You might find Lee Barbour playing his jazz guitar at any of these local venues — and then some — alongside musicians such as Quentin Baxter, Charlton Singleton, and Kevin Hamilton (his Gradual Lean bandmates). Since returning to town in 2001, the Summerville native has performed with multiple groups, recorded with jazz guitar legend Joe Beck, taught college, and released a solo album—2012’s nonfiction. And for the past two years, he’s served as music director of the Charleston International Film Festival. Read on for the scoop on that, his table-tennis skills, and new albums in the works.

Longest-running collaboration: Gradual Lean; we’ve been together for over 12 years. That sort of longevity can only happen when the musicians genuinely enjoy each other’s company, on and off the bandstand. I will play with those guys as long as I can.

Music-directing the Film Festival: I coordinated some great bands for the opening event and after-parties­. The focus is mostly on film, but since music is an important aspect of films, it has a supporting role in this festival.

Latest projects: Both Gradual Lean and my surf jazz band, Post-Cobra, are recording albums later this year.

Instruments of choice: I use three main guitars. I have a black Yamaha for the jazz and gypsy swing I play most weekends at Pane e Vino. With Post-Cobra, I use a 1991 red American Strat for its rockin’, twangy, overdriven tone. And in my solo show and with the eclectic trio Barbour+Kaler+Jenkins, I play an Ibanez baritone (it’s tuned halfway between a guitar and a bass).

Composing for a Robert De Niro DVD: My friend, multimedia master Kevin Harrison, was editing the behind-the-scenes DVD of the new film, The Bag Man, and called me to score the credits. I had about a day and a half to do it, so it’s not as detailed as I wanted, but it was a great lesson in working fast.

Favorite local venues: The Music Hall has become fantastic. I’m a big fan of The Pour House and their dedication to music. The Mezz is the best listening room in town —Quentin Baxter has succeeded in creating a venue where jazz musicians are the focus and not part of the background.

On Charleston's musical family: I admire this scene as a whole because of the variety and dedication of everyone—musicians, club owners, studios, restaurants, and the general public care about live music in a way that I don’t see in other cities.

Playing competitive Ping-Pong: Table tennis is a great equalizer. I’ve been beaten in tournaments by nine-year-old kids as well as a 63-year-old woman. There’s no other sport where that happens. It’s great for improving reflexes and intuition! - Charleston Magazine


"CD Review of 'nonfiction'"

When it came time for local musician Lee Barbour to record a CD of original material, the guitarist wasted no time surrounding himself with the best possible people to assist him every step of the way.

"Nonfiction," the title of Barbour's recently completed disc, could likely refer to the fact that the music here has a satisfyingly real quality to it.

"Blues for America," the album's lead-off track, finds Barbour coaxing some beautifully melancholy chords out of his instrument while the trumpet of another local jazz savior, Charlton Singleton, wails in unison.

"Scarlet Circle" brings things back toward a more traditional jazz sound nicely, while tracks such as "Ape Naked" and "White Devil" demonstrate an almost symbiotic relationship between Barbour and guest musicians such as drummers Quentin Baxter, Jeff Sipe and Ron Wiltrout, saxophonists Kebbi Williams and John Ellis, and others.

The ambitiously titled "Wolf Blitzer," one of the album's best, once again allows for a truly creative exchange of musical ideas between the assembled artists.

This is guitar jazz with an adventuresome streak, and the album's final track, a daring cover of My Bloody Valentine's "Only Shallow," further drives that point home.

Key Tracks: "Scarlet Circle," "Wolf Blitzer," "White Devil" - Charleston Scene


"Lee Barbour Makes a Wild Statement"

Charleston guitarist Lee Barbour is a man often misunderstood — a musician's musician erroneously labelled as simply a jazz artist. Sure, he's played for years in combos like the Gradual Lean and Caravan, but once you absorb the many moods and expressions of Barbour's new solo collection nonfiction, you realize his penchant for experimentation and genre-bending innovation.

"These songs are the story of nearly a decade of my life, a non-verbalized story that is true, not fiction," Barbour says. "It will be a while before I listen to this for pleasure. I put many hours of the most critical listening I'm capable of into this so that everyone else can enjoy it."

He describes the making of nonfiction as "long and painstaking" — adding that local audio engineer Majeed Fick worked patiently with him at Asheville's Sound Temple Studios along the way.

"The more involved the process of making this album became, and the more time it took, it became a major part of my whole life, not just my musical life," Barbour says. "A couple of these songs were composed eight years ago. The journey they took to sound the way they do is inextricably linked to the different choices I made during those years."

The initial recording sessions got off to a quick start, but Barbour wasn't happy with the overall sounds. Looking back, he felt they rushed things. "We recorded all nine songs in two half-day sessions," he says "That's fine for a traditional jazz album, but I thought these songs deserved more. They sounded more cinematic in my head."

Barbour earned his bachelor of arts degree in jazz performance from USC. After settling in Charleston in 2001, he taught guitar and performed frequently around town in various jazz, Americana, and experimental groups.

Barbour began recording tracks for nonfiction nearly two years ago. The nine-song collection is his first studio release as a bandleader. The set includes eight original compositions and one cover ("Only Shallow" by My Bloody Valentine).

"I used the studio as an instrument instead of just documenting a particular performance," Barbour says. "With nonfiction, I achieved the live feel of everyone playing together in a room, then used the studio for additional sounds and textures."

The most spaced-out tunes, like the slow-burning "Blues for America" and the delicate and breezy "Guinevere," capture the spacious sonic quality of the studio. The comparatively frantic and complex tracks, like the nervous-energy romper "Wolf Blitzer" and the aggressive, King Crimson-esque "Ape Naked," seem tighter and more direct.

Barbour wrote some of the pieces while working as a jazz guitar professor at the College of Charleston. He came up with others while on the road with Cary Ann Hearst a few years ago and during a recent stint living in New York City.

Guest musicians on the new album include a few highly acclaimed colleagues. Among the stand-outs is drummer Jeff Sipe, a skillful timekeeper known best for his work with the Aquarium Rescue Unit, Leftover Salmon, Jeff Coffin, Keller Williams, and the Jimmy Herring Band. Saxophonists John Ellis (Charlie Hunter, Norah Jones) and Kebbi Williams (OutKast, Derek Trucks Band) tag-teamed from track to track as well.

Local musicians on the album include bassist Jake Holwegner, pianist Gerald Gregory, trumpeter Charlton Singleton, and drummers Quentin Baxter and Ron Wiltrout.

There are two or three "full band" personalities at work on nonfiction. The local musicians comprised half of the songs, while the guest combo comprised the rest. Ultimately, Barbour aimed for a fluid dynamic, and the final track listing came together rather easily.

"The order was certainly considered," he says. "I was going for a continuous 'album feel,' so the overall sound was stronger than just the individual songs."

Elements of classic rock, modern jazz, and vintage funk are detectable on much of the album, but hints of heavy prog rock, drum 'n' bass, and international flavor the music, too.Seeing no need to categorize, Barbour simply refers to the collection as indie jazz. "It contains so many different genre elements that calling it jazz-rock, funk-jazz, or fusion is no longer accurate," he says. "I also like 'avant-jam' because it explores the outer realms of the improvisatory nature of jam band music with less egotistic noodling."

Barbour's combo of Ellis, Gregory, Holwegner, and Wiltrout will headline the the CD release show at the Pour House.

"I hope folks will hear my evolution from a young jazz player to a more mature composer, improviser, and producer," he says. "I think they'll hear I'm capable of focusing my wide range of influences into a cohesive artistic statement."
- Charleston City Paper


"Lee Barbour Rocks Jazz at McCrady's"


Honestly a lot of the events that I attend are to support a friend. In this case, friend and writer Vikki Matsis. Lee Barbour is her other half, and I’ve always wanted to hear him play. When most of the people I talked to about the Jazz Series told me this show was high on their list too, I knew it was a good decision. I was really thrilled with just how good a decision it was.

Barbour, on guitar, was supported by Gerald Gregory on piano, Ron Wiltrout on drums, Jake Holwegner on bass, and Robert Lewis on saxophone, who showed some serious chops as a last minute sub for Kebbi Williams. As Lewis only had one rehearsal to get up to speed, it’s fair to say they picked a great replacement.

Playing original music and plugging his upcoming cd, due out July 20th, Barbour was a great mix of quality music with just enough story. Let’s be honest, an over-explained song makes me think the music must be lacking. Barbour let his songs speak for themselves, like Wolf Blitzer and Guinevere.

I was sitting across from a hip young couple, she studies art history in Baltimore and he studies Jazz Guitar with Barbour. He even went so far as to call Barbour his mentor. The admiration and respect in his voice was clear, which speaks volumes.

Barbour learned to play by ear as a teen, and then studied Jazz Guitar performance at the University of South Carolina. He returned home to Charleston and was made the youngest adjunct professor at CofC within the year, teaching Jazz Guitar. Don’t his youth fool you. This guy has talent and a sound that is all his own.

So, as I told our Facebook and Twitter friends last night, if you weren’t at McCrady’s to hear Lee Barbour, I feel sorry for you. Don’t despair too much, you can catch his cd release at the Pour House on Maybank Highway on 2/17/12. You won’t regret it.
- Charleston Art Mag


"Lee Barbour Rocks Jazz at McCrady's"


Honestly a lot of the events that I attend are to support a friend. In this case, friend and writer Vikki Matsis. Lee Barbour is her other half, and I’ve always wanted to hear him play. When most of the people I talked to about the Jazz Series told me this show was high on their list too, I knew it was a good decision. I was really thrilled with just how good a decision it was.

Barbour, on guitar, was supported by Gerald Gregory on piano, Ron Wiltrout on drums, Jake Holwegner on bass, and Robert Lewis on saxophone, who showed some serious chops as a last minute sub for Kebbi Williams. As Lewis only had one rehearsal to get up to speed, it’s fair to say they picked a great replacement.

Playing original music and plugging his upcoming cd, due out July 20th, Barbour was a great mix of quality music with just enough story. Let’s be honest, an over-explained song makes me think the music must be lacking. Barbour let his songs speak for themselves, like Wolf Blitzer and Guinevere.

I was sitting across from a hip young couple, she studies art history in Baltimore and he studies Jazz Guitar with Barbour. He even went so far as to call Barbour his mentor. The admiration and respect in his voice was clear, which speaks volumes.

Barbour learned to play by ear as a teen, and then studied Jazz Guitar performance at the University of South Carolina. He returned home to Charleston and was made the youngest adjunct professor at CofC within the year, teaching Jazz Guitar. Don’t his youth fool you. This guy has talent and a sound that is all his own.

So, as I told our Facebook and Twitter friends last night, if you weren’t at McCrady’s to hear Lee Barbour, I feel sorry for you. Don’t despair too much, you can catch his cd release at the Pour House on Maybank Highway on 2/17/12. You won’t regret it.
- Charleston Art Mag


"3 Rivers Music Festival"

"Backed by a bass player who played an upright acoustic, the two guitarists traded licks and chord progressions so fast and fluidly that the full house was gasping for breath. The trio from Charleston is called Caravan, and their gypsy jazz was filled with remarkable soul, dexterity and speed. Don't miss them when they come back to town, and I sure hope they will".

- The State


"Barbour mastering the genres"

Published on 03/10/05 BY JACK MCCRAY
Of The Post and Courier Staff

Most people around here don't know about Lee Barbour, but the internationally renowned Joe Beck will give people a chance to learn about Barbour's musical prowess during a show at FIG on Tuesday.
The two jazz guitarists have become musical soulmates since playing together last year at Vintage, where they worked to a standing-room-only crowd. Barbour said FIG is a little bigger, but he expects an even larger turnout.
This year, Beck will sit in with Barbour and Gradual Lean, a progressive jazz band with quite a following around town, at FIG (Food Is Good), a downtown restaurant with a growing legion of fans.
Gradual Lean has played there on Tuesdays for a couple of months, kicking off long-term plans to gradually incorporate live, improvisational music into the eatery's ambience.
Beck said in a telephone interview Friday he was looking forward to returning to Charleston. "I love it there. It's like a little sophisticated palace in the middle of nowhere," he said. What he likes most about here, though, is playing with Barbour.
"It's beyond me how he can be playing at the level he plays and not be a national figure," Beck said. Barbour said he and Beck have plans to make a record. "We tried to do it last year, but because of some facility problems we weren't able to get it done. We're talking about me coming to his home and doing it there."
Beck was Miles Davis' first guitar player, paving the way for a long line to follow that included Pat Metheny, George Benson, John Abercrombie, John McGlaughlin and John Scofield, masters all.
"Last year, he expressed an interest in coming back, so I rounded up these gigs," Barbour said. On Wednesday at 8 p.m., the act, including a clinic, will be at the College of Charleston's Randolph Hall for $10.
Then the group will play the Jazz Corner in Hilton Head on March 17 at 7:30 p.m.
Gradual Lean has been on the Charleston music scene for almost a decade now, always on the cutting edge of repertoire, instrumentation and interpretation. On Tuesday, Ron Wiltrout will play drums and Kevin Hamilton will play bass, along with Beck and Barbour.
The band plays standards, pop tunes, sacred music and originals. It plays in the short and long forms. Its signature is intensity, so sometimes songs build over a long period of time and go through change, after change, after change.
It's very inventive stuff, so it's well suited for Beck.
"His playing bridges the gap between classic jazz guitar and the more modern sound," Barbour said. "He's also a studio musician who has played with other phenomenal musicians. He's really versatile. He can convey other people's music through his own style." Beck does a lot of teaching these days, and is working on a best-of compilation of his work over the years. He works in Waterbury, N.Y., at Nagatuck Valley College near his home. He does clinics and performances all around the world, so he's seen many musicians.
He said of Barbour, "He's chosen some of the most difficult styles to master. He's not like a Stevie Ray Vaughn (great player but master of only one genre, rock-'n'-roll). He's playing Django Rheinhardt (gypsy swing), bebop, all of the styles. He plays fusion of the highest order. It's difficult to play all of them well, but he's great with each and everything in between."
WANT TO GO?
WHAT: Joe Beck and Lee Barbour with Gradual Lean
WHEN: Tuesday, 9 p.m.-midnight
WHERE: FIG restaurant, 232 Meeting St.
COVER: $5
MORE INFO: 805-5900
- Post and Courier


"Barbour mastering the genres"

Published on 03/10/05 BY JACK MCCRAY
Of The Post and Courier Staff

Most people around here don't know about Lee Barbour, but the internationally renowned Joe Beck will give people a chance to learn about Barbour's musical prowess during a show at FIG on Tuesday.
The two jazz guitarists have become musical soulmates since playing together last year at Vintage, where they worked to a standing-room-only crowd. Barbour said FIG is a little bigger, but he expects an even larger turnout.
This year, Beck will sit in with Barbour and Gradual Lean, a progressive jazz band with quite a following around town, at FIG (Food Is Good), a downtown restaurant with a growing legion of fans.
Gradual Lean has played there on Tuesdays for a couple of months, kicking off long-term plans to gradually incorporate live, improvisational music into the eatery's ambience.
Beck said in a telephone interview Friday he was looking forward to returning to Charleston. "I love it there. It's like a little sophisticated palace in the middle of nowhere," he said. What he likes most about here, though, is playing with Barbour.
"It's beyond me how he can be playing at the level he plays and not be a national figure," Beck said. Barbour said he and Beck have plans to make a record. "We tried to do it last year, but because of some facility problems we weren't able to get it done. We're talking about me coming to his home and doing it there."
Beck was Miles Davis' first guitar player, paving the way for a long line to follow that included Pat Metheny, George Benson, John Abercrombie, John McGlaughlin and John Scofield, masters all.
"Last year, he expressed an interest in coming back, so I rounded up these gigs," Barbour said. On Wednesday at 8 p.m., the act, including a clinic, will be at the College of Charleston's Randolph Hall for $10.
Then the group will play the Jazz Corner in Hilton Head on March 17 at 7:30 p.m.
Gradual Lean has been on the Charleston music scene for almost a decade now, always on the cutting edge of repertoire, instrumentation and interpretation. On Tuesday, Ron Wiltrout will play drums and Kevin Hamilton will play bass, along with Beck and Barbour.
The band plays standards, pop tunes, sacred music and originals. It plays in the short and long forms. Its signature is intensity, so sometimes songs build over a long period of time and go through change, after change, after change.
It's very inventive stuff, so it's well suited for Beck.
"His playing bridges the gap between classic jazz guitar and the more modern sound," Barbour said. "He's also a studio musician who has played with other phenomenal musicians. He's really versatile. He can convey other people's music through his own style." Beck does a lot of teaching these days, and is working on a best-of compilation of his work over the years. He works in Waterbury, N.Y., at Nagatuck Valley College near his home. He does clinics and performances all around the world, so he's seen many musicians.
He said of Barbour, "He's chosen some of the most difficult styles to master. He's not like a Stevie Ray Vaughn (great player but master of only one genre, rock-'n'-roll). He's playing Django Rheinhardt (gypsy swing), bebop, all of the styles. He plays fusion of the highest order. It's difficult to play all of them well, but he's great with each and everything in between."
WANT TO GO?
WHAT: Joe Beck and Lee Barbour with Gradual Lean
WHEN: Tuesday, 9 p.m.-midnight
WHERE: FIG restaurant, 232 Meeting St.
COVER: $5
MORE INFO: 805-5900
- Post and Courier


"May '08 Jazz Times review of 'Songs for Singing'"

On 'Songs for Singing', Beck's partner is 28 year old Lee Barbour, a versatile guitarist from Charleston, S.C who alternately plays in a gypsy jazz group and a modern, postbop quartet called Gradual Lean. Together, they offer intriguing twists on jazz standards and familiar tunes by the Beatles, Thelonious Monk, and Ornette coleman. Beck's role in this duet setting is different from his free-flowing interactions with Abercrombie. Primarily utilizing his patented alto guitar, Beck expertly comps befind Barbour's melodic lines and flee-fingered solos while simultaneously playing deep-toned walking basslines, as on "Can't get Started," Coleman's "Turnaround" and Barbour's own "Q's Blues." The two engage in delicate interplay on two Beatles themes, "Norwegian Wood" and "Michelle," as well as on a sublime version of "Monk's Dream." Barbour brings some subversive energy to bear with his edgy fretless guitar work on top of Beck's arpeggiated accompaniment to "Bye Bye Blackbird." And on a particularly audacious interpretation of "When I Fall in Love," he plays his fretless ax with distortion pedal set on stun, sounding like a crazed Sonny Landreth on the warpath. Though they may be two generations apart (Beck is 62), these two plectorists demonstrate a winning chemistry on 'Songs for Singing'. - Jazz Times


"May '08 Jazz Times review of 'Songs for Singing'"

On 'Songs for Singing', Beck's partner is 28 year old Lee Barbour, a versatile guitarist from Charleston, S.C who alternately plays in a gypsy jazz group and a modern, postbop quartet called Gradual Lean. Together, they offer intriguing twists on jazz standards and familiar tunes by the Beatles, Thelonious Monk, and Ornette coleman. Beck's role in this duet setting is different from his free-flowing interactions with Abercrombie. Primarily utilizing his patented alto guitar, Beck expertly comps befind Barbour's melodic lines and flee-fingered solos while simultaneously playing deep-toned walking basslines, as on "Can't get Started," Coleman's "Turnaround" and Barbour's own "Q's Blues." The two engage in delicate interplay on two Beatles themes, "Norwegian Wood" and "Michelle," as well as on a sublime version of "Monk's Dream." Barbour brings some subversive energy to bear with his edgy fretless guitar work on top of Beck's arpeggiated accompaniment to "Bye Bye Blackbird." And on a particularly audacious interpretation of "When I Fall in Love," he plays his fretless ax with distortion pedal set on stun, sounding like a crazed Sonny Landreth on the warpath. Though they may be two generations apart (Beck is 62), these two plectorists demonstrate a winning chemistry on 'Songs for Singing'. - Jazz Times


Discography

Caravan- A Night in Samois, 2004

Lee Barbour trio dvd- LIVE, 2004

Original music composed for the pilot of "Cookin' with John G." 2005

The Illuminati Outro- Live at the Simons Center, 2006

Beck/Barbour- Songs for Singing, 2007

Beat the Elite- ep- noiseless/voiceless 2008

Lee Barbour- Nonfiction, 2012


Photos

Bio

 Lee Barbour is a musician from Charleston, SC. As a guitarist, he has performed/recorded with several international artists, including guitar legend Joe Beck (Miles Davis), Fred Wesley (James Brown), Earl Klugh, Chris Bullock (Snarky Puppy), Justin Stanton (Snarky Puppy), Cody Wright (Joe Bonamassa, Peter Erskine), John Blackwell (Prince, D'Angelo) Quentin Baxter (Ranky Tanky, Rene Marie) Jeff Sipe, Kebbi Williams (Tedeschi Trucks Band), Elise Testone (American Idol), Ellis Hall, and Cary Ann Hearst (Shovels and Rope).

 Polyverse is his latest project, formed in 2019. The core band is a modern organ trio, utilizing the power of the organ, augmented with synths, electric guitar, fx and drums. Occasionally, the trio is expanded with the addition of a sax, trumpet or bass. Polyverse plays creative arrangements of jazz and pop tunes in addition to unique originals. Their first few singles feature Justin Stanton of Snarky Puppy on trumpet and will be released in early 2020.

Band Members