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. Currently finishing a PhD in English at the University of Guelph, he has published three books in the course of his studies. 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.Now, the City of Hamilton has awarded the Kerry Schooley award for the book that "best captures the spirit of Hamilton" to David's Lovecraftian young adult novel The Midnight Games.
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 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 ….
January 2016: Thanks to the folks at Wolsak & Wynn and ChiZine for organizing the Toronto debut of The Midnight Games, January 20 at The Round Venue, 152a Augusta Avenue. It was an invaluable chance to read my work for a whole new audience, sharing the evening with fellow author Matt Cahill and musician Kari Maaren.
Response to the book has been gratifying—recently I especially enjoyed doing my first-ever school visit, talking about Midnight Games and the hows and whys of writing—thanks to Karen Weber, at Aldershot High School in Burlington. Amy Kenny interviewed me about The Midnight Games for the Hamilton Spectator —on Halloween no less!—and the Globe and Mail’s Patrick White did an insightful Facebook posting about the book. In the interests of full disclosure, I have to admit that Patrick is my nephew, but he actually managed to nail an important aspect of the book: “I don't think I'm giving away too much away,” he writes, “in saying that, from now on, every time I drive by Hamilton, I will think less about industrial decay and more about huge, writhing tentacles emanating from the skies over Ivor Wynne.”
Also thanks to Albuquerque, NM writer Mark Weber, whose end-of-year entry on his blog/newsletter Jazz for mostly focused on Wolsak & Wynn’s new edition of The Battle of the Five Spot. Mark, I might mention, is a distinctive American poet, music writer, performer and photographer whose photos and writings about west coast music in the 1970s and 1980s have special value in illuminating the contributions of neglected artists. To accompany his 1982 photo of Ornette Coleman and Prime Time, he writes, “I recently reread The Battle of the Five Spot: Ornette Coleman and the New York Jazz Field (2006, 2014) by David Neil Lee, and distance (50+ years) is ideal for historical perspective. This study endeavors to quantify how the opinions and conventions and peer pressure and the dynamics of right place, right time, came together, for better or worse, and how Ornette withstood the powder keg barrage simply because he truly had something of worth to add to jazz. The ground zero paragraph (among many) in this very good book happens on page 34: ‘The more populist tendencies of hard bop, the art music experiments of Third Stream, and the tempered bebop style of cool jazz were all attempts to forge a jazz identity that could move outside of the influence of Charlie Parker. The idea of a technical development of jazz, onward and upward, was stalled behind a barrier of technique.’”