Gordon Lee is one of Portland's rare gems.
Gordon Lee was born in 1953 in New York City. He started playing drums in a "garage" rock and roll band at 12. He started studying piano and played his first gig, a high school dance, at the age of 14. Lee attended Indiana University where he studied with David Baker and received a Bachelor of Music degree in 1976. In 1999 he received his Master's of Music degree from Portland State University where he studied with Tomas Svoboda. After college Lee moved to Portland, Oregon and began playing with one of the originators of jazz-rock fusion, Native American saxophonist and song writer Jim Pepper. This association lasted until the Pepper's death in 1992. In 1980 Lee moved to New York City and worked as a jazz pianist. He performed with such jazz and pop stars as Don Cherry, Bill Frisell, Bobby Hutcherson, Dewey Redman, Houston Person, Frank Foster, Gladys Knight and the Pips, the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra, Bobby Vinton and the Temptations. In 1985 Lee decided to escape the rat-race of New York and returned to Portland, Oregon. He then became involved in music education at the college level in and around Portland. Lee began playing with drummer Mel Brown in 1986, a musical relationship that continues still. In 1989 the Mel Brown Sextet, playing Lee's compositions and arrangements, won the international Hennessy Jazz Search beating out over 700 bands from around the world. The next year Lee's CD Gordon Bleu won Best Jazz Recording of 1990 from the Northwest Music Association. Lee has recorded 3 other CD's since then. Lee has 3 other Cd's in his name Land Whales in New York, featuring Jim Pepper, On the Shoulders of Giants, featuring Leroy Vinnegar and Rough Jazz featuring John Gross. Lee has performed all over the world: in 1986, 1989, 1991, and 1995 at the Mt. Hood Festival of Jazz; the Playboy Jazz Festival at the Hollywood Bowl in 1989; the JFK Center fro the Performing Arts in Washington D.C. in 1982; Paris, France, Vienna, Austria and southern Germany in 1991, Tokyo, Japan and Lima Peru in 1993; and Istanbul, Turkey in 1994. He has performed with the Brooklyn Philharmonic Orchestra under the direction of David Amram in 1993 and the Oregon Festival Symphony under Laos Balogh in 1996. Lee continues his intent of presenting the highest quality original music while educating the public about the many potentials that music can be.