The Scotsman Sessions #166: Dick Lee

Welcome to the award-winning Scotsman Sessions. With performing arts activity curtailed for the foreseeable future, we are commissioning a series of short video performances from artists all around the country and releasing them on scotsman.com, with introductions from our critics. Here, Portobello-based jazz clarinettist, saxophonist and composer Dick Lee multitracks deftly on clarinet and bass clarinet to perform a composition he entitled Gentleman Jim, as a tribute to a longstanding figure on the Scottish trad jazz scene, cornettist Jim Petrie, who died in August of last year.

In less strictured times, jazz clarinettist, saxophonist and composer Dick Lee delivers his reedsmanship in numerous line-ups, including Dick Lee’s Swingtet with vocalist Ali Affleck and Dick Lee’s Bechet Nouveau, Spatz & Co and his duo with accordionist David Vernon, not to mention Dr Lee’s Prescription, which performed his suite, The Games, with poet Ron Butlin, commissioned for the 2014 Commonwealth Games.

For the Scotsman Sessions, however, he multitracks deftly on clarinet and bass clarinet from his shed-studio at home in Portobello, playing a composition he entitled Gentleman Jim, as a tribute to a longstanding figure on the Scottish trad jazz scene, cornettist Jim Petrie, who died in August of last year. Lee, 69, played alongside Petrie on many occasions, describing him as a “cornettist, friend and all-time good guy."

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“Jim was a very fine exponent of a certain old New Orleans cornet style,” he says, “an admirer of Henry ‘Red’ Allen in particular, but of course he was fond of just playing great music and having a good time.” The phantom banjoist in the background, by the way, is Beverley Knight, who played with Petrie’s Diplomats of Jazz and pre-recorded her accompaniment for Lee’s tune.

Dick Lee, multitracking deftly

Lee has been industrious over these beleaguered months, producing “Lockdown Meltdown” – a compilation of his compositions made in that same shed, often with flautist wife Anne Evans and percussionist son Tom Lee, while other musicians had recorded parts pre-lockdown. The compilation illustrates the sheer diversity of his music, from trad jazz to folk, classical, even prog-rock.

He distributed copies of the resulting CD through his e-mail list, but has now made all the tracks freely accessible from his website and has also started a related YouTube channel. “Curiously enough,” he says, “I may never have found time to organise these recordings, particularly the orchestral pieces, if it were not for the lockdown.”

For more on Dick Lee and his Lockdown Meltdown series, visit www.dicklee.org.uk

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