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A 'Jazz Night' Family Affair: Father And Son Saxophonists Mike And Julian Lee

Saxophonists Mike and Julian Lee
Saxophonists Mike and Julian Lee

As an aspiring young saxophonist, Julian Lee would often get introduced as "Mike's kid." His father, Mike Lee, has a sterling reputation as a jazz educator, and as a saxophonist in bands led by heavyweights like Jimmy Heath and Oliver Lake.

After introducing Julian to the saxophone at around age 7, "he could play right away," Mike Lee says. "It was crazy." And so began a rocket ride, propelling Julian through the jazz program at Juilliard and onto the contemporary scene.

In this Father's Day edition of Jazz Night, we'll hear from Mike and Julian about how their relationship has shaped their music and evolved over time; some music from Mike's most recent album, Another Step, featuring Julian on tenor and another son, Matt, on drums; and we'll drop in on a couple of sets at Dizzy's Club — one featuring Mike with pianist and regular collaborator Loston Harris, another featuring Julian behind an accomplished peer, pianist Isaiah J. Thompson.

"Julian is absolute soul," affirms one of his mentors, Wynton Marsalis, in a moment from this episode of Jazz Night in America.

By the end, it'll be clear why Mike takes pride in recently hearing himself referred to as: "Julian's dad."

Mike and Julian Lee
Christopher Drukker / Artist
Mike and Julian Lee


Isaiah J. Thompson Quartet: Isaiah J. Thompson, piano; Julian Lee, tenor saxophone; Philip Norris, bass; and Domo Branch, drums.

Loston Harris Trio: Loston Harris, piano; Mike Lee, tenor saxophone; Gianluca Renzi, bass

"Hey Lock!" from Mike Lee's Song for All of Us: Mike Lee, tenor saxophone; Julian Lee, tenor saxophone, Ed Howard, bass; Matt Lee, drums

"Shortstops" from Mike Lee's Song for All of Us: Mike Lee, tenor saxophone; Julian Lee, tenor saxophone; Ed Howard, bass; Lenny White, drums.

The Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis: Sherman Irby, alto saxophone; Ted Nash, alto saxophone; Victor Goines, tenor saxophone; Julian Lee, tenor saxophone; Paul Nedzela; baritone saxophone; Ryan Kisor, trumpet; Kenny Rampton, trumpet; Marcus Printup, trumpet; Wynton Marsalis, trumpet; Jonah Moss, trumpet; Kasperi Sarikoski, trombone; Sam Chess, trombone; Elliot Mason, trombone; James Chirillo, guitar; Dan Nimmer, piano; Carlos Henriquez, bass; Marion Felder, drums.

Set List:

  • Isaiah J. Thompson Quartet, "Tales of the Elephant and the Butterfly" (Thompson)
  • Loston Harris Trio, "Frame Works" (Harris)
  • Mike Lee, "Hey Lock!" (Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis)
  • Mike Lee, "Shortstops" (Lee)
  • The Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis, "Blue and Sentimental" (Count Basie, Mack David, Jerry Livingston)
  • Isaiah J. Thompson Quartet, "Mikula Blues" (Thompson)
  • Credits:

    Writer and Producer: Alex Ariff; Host: Christian McBride; JALC Music Engineer: Rob Macomber; Project Manager: Suraya Mohamed; Senior Producer: Katie Simon; Executive Producers: Anya Grundmann and Gabrielle Armand

    Special thanks to Patrick Bartley Jr., Kay Wolf, and Melissa Walker at Jazz House Kids.

    Copyright 2021 WBGO and Jazz At Lincoln Center. To see more, visit WBGO and Jazz At Lincoln Center.