Will Lee – Backstage at Iridium Jazz Club with the Oz Noy Trio Feat (Part 2)
Will Lee (right) with Oz Noy on guitar and Dave Weckl on drums at Iridium.
BETWEEN SETS WITH OZ NOY, DAVE WECKL AND WILL LEE
Iridium Jazz Club, just north of Times Square in New York City, plays host to some of jazz’s most established legends as well as the hottest newcomers. Recently, Iridium hosted the fantastic trio of headliners performing as the Oz Noy Trio Feat. Noy was joined by drumming legend, Dave Weckl and bass virtuoso, Will Lee for an unforgettable (and totally packed) gig at Iridium. Sundancechannel.com was lucky enough to catch up will all three musicians between sets. If you missed our conversation with Oz Noy click here.
Part 2 – Will Lee
Sundancechannel.com: Where did you grow up and what kind of musical training did you have?
Will Lee: I’m from Texas originally. Both of my parents were jazz musicians – my Dad was a keyboard player… still is. My Mom was a big band singer… kind of in the Sarah Vaughan school of improv. She would sing “Polka Dots and Moonbeams” – songs like that.
Sundancechannel.com: Did she scat?
Will Lee: Oh yeah! So she was very influential and both my parents always had a lot of music playing in the house. There was always a jazz record being played – whether it was Miles Davis or Cannonball Adderley, Nancy Wilson… Sarah (Vaughan).
Sundancechannel.com: Many people probably recognize you as the bass player on The David Letterman Show. What kind of freedom does having the regular TV gig allow you to pursue your own projects?
Will Lee: Well, it’s actually the opposite, because it keeps me – and it’s really fortunate for me because I never really envisioned myself as a guy who wanted to get into a van every night after a gig in Europe and go to the next town, you know? So it’s really great because it keeps me in the city (NY) which also means that I really am restricted to… so instead of opening up the possibility for all these other gigs – it actually keeps me from doing all these other gigs! (laughs) Because you’re just “here” and there’s not a season where we’re “off” – we go year round.
Sundancechannel.com: You do have one extracurricular band, though – The Fab Faux. What started that?
Will Lee: I have always been WAY into The Beatles. I was always influenced by – no matter what I was doing, you know… a jazz record or a country or a gospel record, or whatever session I was playing on – there was always this underlying thread and my sort of reference point was The Beatles. From the first time I saw them on TV as a kid growing up in Texas and had heard them on the radio – it’s been like a fascination for me for all these years. But I’ve never really wanted to let myself be pigeonholed into “Oh, that guy… he’s a Beatles guy.” So I never really publicized or talked about it or even wanted myself to ever be sitting in one place too long. I loved when the jazz players thought I was a rock guy or the rock players thought I was a jazz guy – I loved that, you know? With the exception of The Beatles, which is the only thing I would ever allow myself to be sort of pigeonholed into a place. When I met this drummer that I started the band with – a guy named Rich Pagano – I was sitting next to a club owner and it dawned on me at that moment, “If I put a Beatles band together, would you hire us to play here?” And he said “yes.” So I called this guy the next day and said “I want to start a Beatles band,” and we started figuring out who to have in the band. And ever since then – that was 11 years ago – it has really grown and almost every Saturday night, we’re somewhere in the country playing Beatles music.
Sundancechannel.com: At the level of success that you have achieved in the business, how much time do you still need or take to actually practice the bass alone?
Will Lee: I have to squeeze those moments in because for every project that I’m working on, it requires a whole lot of real lonely focus time by yourself working on that music. So that by the time anybody ever sees a guy like myself – they have never seen me “work,” because it’s always in private. So they might look at me a think I’m doing the work… but that’s the dessert part of what I do. That’s after the work has been done.
Sundancechannel.com: How many instruments did you go through before settling on the bass?
Will Lee: Quite a few! Violin, piano lessons, trumpet for years – I majored on French Horn in college for the first year I was there and then I finally came home to bass.
Sundancechannel.com: Do you still play any of those other instruments?
Will Lee: Well, I still play drums, actually. Sometimes with the Fab Faux, I’ll get back on the drum kit and play a song when the drummer comes out front to sing. Yeah, it’s cool!
Sundancechannel.com: What kind of school music program did or didn’t you have growing up?
Will Lee: I never played on a borrowed instrument or a school-owned instrument. I always had my own, for some reason – so I guess I was never in schools that supplied, maybe? As a bassist, I find myself, you know, I have more than I need, so I’m willing to give instruments to schools. I love doing that because I love to see what comes from that.
Sundancechannel.com: Where can people catch you with the Fab Faux this summer?
Will Lee: We have a lot of stuff this summer (check schedule here). We have all of August off, but starting at the end of June, there’s a lot of stuff going on.
Check back for Part 3 BACKSTAGE AT IRIDIUM – Oz Noy Trio Feat for our interview with legendary drummer, Dave Weckl. If you missed our conversation with Oz Noy, click here to read.