January 2016

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.’”

November 2015

November 2015: There is a hip new (mostly used) bookstore in Hamilton. What's more it's on Barton Street, east of downtown. Joel and Mary of The River Trading Company just blogged a very nice piece about The Midnight Games: 


August 2015

August 2015: The new edition of The Battle of the Five Spot coincides with the appearance of a remastered version of the Shirley Clarke film Ornette: Made in America (1985) by Milestone Films in New Jersey. I have arranged with Milestone to show the film at selected readings where I talk about Coleman, his explosive debut at the Five Spot Café in 1959, and the politics and culture of jazz. Thanks to St. Catherines’ Niagara Artists Centre for putting on such an event at their great new rooftop theatre in July. I look forward to doing it as well in Guelph September 20 at Silence as part of the Guelph Jazz Festival, and in Toronto on Friday, September 25 at the Dignam Gallery of the Women’s Art Association of Canada.

July 2015

July 2015: Thanks to Kevin McNeilly for inviting me to present at the Vancouver colloquium Time Changes: Improvisation, History, and the Body June 20 and 21, where I was able to present on the Artists’ Jazz Band and Ornette Coleman, and present the Shirley Clarke film Ornette: Made in America. Great work from presenters Emma Cleary, Brian Jude de Lima, Julia Úlehla, Kiran Bhumber, Bob Pritchard, Neelamjit Dillon, Gerry Hemingway, Tom Scholte, Ben Brown and Michelle Lui , Geoff Mitchell (skyping from Quebec), the incredible Rupert Common and the Freestyle Rap Alliance, and many others.


It was the culmination of a great week in which I did a brief reading at the launch of the Boneshaker Anthology at the Supermarket in Toronto, along with Lillian Necakov, Bev Daurio, Gary Barwin, Stuart Ross, bill bissett and many others, and played a great set at Hamilton’s Artword Artbar with Terry Fraser, John Oswald and Mike Malone, opening this year’s Something Else! Festival.