David Lee is a writer and double bassist. Originally from BC, he spent years in the Toronto art scene and on BC's Sunshine Coast, and currently lives in Hamilton, Ontario. He has just finished a PhD in English at the University of Guelph. In 2012, Toronto's Tightrope Books issued David's first novel, Commander Zero. In 2014, a new and revised edition of David's critically-acclaimed jazz book The Battle of the Five Spot: Ornette Coleman and the New York Jazz Field (Wolsak & Wynn) was launched at the New School for Public Engagement in New York City. In 2016, the City of Hamilton awarded the Kerry Schooley award for the book that "best conveys the spirit of Hamilton" to David's Lovecraftian young adult novel The Midnight Games

August 15, 2017

Don’t you hate people who claim to be hip enough to have websites, but then never update them?

I must raise my hand, guilty as charged, since I haven’t updated my site in nine months.

It has been a busy time, with me balancing my first-ever teaching jobs at Wilfrid Laurier University with finishing my PhD in the School of English and Theatre Studies at the University of Guelph. I just now feel that I’m coming up for air.

Meanwhile, thanks to Stuart Broomer for his review of our trio CD, The Phantom Hunter, in The Whole Note. Any musician is lucky to be listened to and written about by this elegant and insightful writer.

On June 15 I successfully defended my dissertation, Outside the Empire: Improvised Music in Toronto 1960-1985. Thanks to my committee: Ajay Heble (supervisor), Daniel Fischlin, and Frédérique Arroyas (who stepped down for the defense, and was replaced by Christine Bold). Also to the outside examiner, Jack Chambers, grad coordinator Gregor Campbell, and David Prentice and Maureen Cochrane, who showed up to offer moral support. I believe that SETS director Ann Wilson, whose office is next to the examining room, paid us a great compliment when she remarked that she had never heard so much laughter coming out of that room during a defense.

The PhD process has been long: I entered the program in September 2011. It has been an intense period: besides university work, I published my first novel (Commander Zero, 2012), as well as the third edition of The Battle of the Five Spot (Wolsak & Wynn 2014), and The Midnight Games (Poplar Press, 2015).


This summer, I am doing some playing with Chris Palmer, and waiting for Connor Bennett to get back from Ottawa so we can reconvene the trio. I am talking to a publisher about a book adaptation of my dissertation. And I am working, whenever I can, on a sequel to The Midnight Games – motivated, mostly, by the readers of all ages who told me they enjoyed that book. Thanks!

December 10, 2016

Although I need to focus on finishing a dissertation, I have had more arts activity than I deserve. Friday December 16 at 8 pm, Connor Bennett saxophones, Chris Palmer guitar and I are launching our CD “The Phantom Hunter” at the Gift Shop Gallery on Rebecca Street in Hamilton.

Meanwhile, I am so pleased to have won the Hamilton Arts Council’s Kerry Schooley Award, presented to the author who "best captures the spirit of Hamilton," for The Midnight Games. Gary Barwin was kind enough to say that, now having been in academia for a few years, I was starting to sound “professorial.” At least, I think he was being kind. I certainly think I look professorial!


October 25, 2016 - 

An email from New York City reminds me that the written word never stops working. David Mulkins writes from the Bowery: “Just had wonderful conversation with Charles Mingus' son, Charles Mingus III, who contacted me to compliment your Windows on the Bowery poster on the Five Spot.”

Mr. Mingus was responding to the Bowery Alliance of Neighbors’ show “Windows on the Bowery,” 64 window placards celebrating the Lower Manhattan neighbourhood’s many contributions to American history & culture. I wrote the texts for two of the placards. Mounted at the Bowery’s Cooper Union’s Foundation Building and inside the Bowery branch of the HSBC Bank, the placards can also be seen at each of the celebrated historic sites. The 325 Bowery placard (#54 on map) celebrates the Tin Palace jazz club that operated there in the 1970s, and at 5 Cooper Square (#59) can be seen “The Hippest Place on Earth: Five Spot Jazz Club,” the original site of the club which from the 1950s until the 1970s presented Cecil Taylor, Thelonious Monk, Herbie Nichols, Billie Holiday, Ornette Coleman and many others.

Charles Mingus III with the Five Spot Café poster, text by David Neil Lee. Photo by Alfonso Iandiorio.


Thank you Charles, and David Mulkins. Maybe there is some point to writing books! Meanwhile, I am marking papers for my fall TA position, and waiting to hear back from my committee about the first draft of my dissertation. Will they think it’s okay, with a few tweaks … or will it be back to the drawing board!

Hope you are all having a productive autumn ….

June 2016

June 22, 2016 I get to speak at an event commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Pender Harbour Reading Centre. We lived in the Harbour from 1991 to 2002, and the reading centre was the first library our boys ever went to; it’s an invaluable, volunteer run resource for this rural community. The reading will be at 4:00 pm at our former neighbour Chrys Sample’s Francis Point B&B.

Friday, June 24 I will be at the People’s Coop Bookstore in Vancouver, reading with a poet I have long admired, Tom Wayman.

Then I hope to hear some of the Vancouver jazz festival before heading to Kelowna for a signing Saturday, July 2 at Mosaic Books, 1-4 pm. Then I stop at Winnipeg for a July 7 reading with Matt Cahill and others at McNally Robinson Booksellers.

Before I leave for the coast I get to play in this year’s Something Else! Festival in Hamilton. Thanks to Cem Zafir for moving to Hamilton and making all this possible!

Not only did John O’Neill at Black Gate Magazine write a generous review of The Midnight Games, he invited me to write a Black Gate blog post about it.

OK, back to working on my dissertation on Toronto Improvised Music for the School of English & Theatre Studies at U of Guelph  ….