Cardiff-born musician launches all or nothing bid for debut album
Pianist and Royal Academy of Music jazz graduate, Peter Lee, is crowdsourcing his debut album for five piece band and string quartet through Kickstarter in an all or nothing bid to create ‘The Velvet Rage’.
Inspired by Alan Downs’ book of the same title, the album expresses the highs and lows of Lee’s personal experience as a musician. Downs worked as a psychologist in America, offering counselling to gay men and he has become familiar with their most common personal battles. Towards the end of the book he offers wisdom and guidance towards a goal he names ‘authentic validation’. Lee’s debut is tribute to this sentiment, showcasing compositions Lee has written over the last 10 years, drawing from his educational, professional and personal journey.
Lee commented: “Gay men and women have been granted the opportunity to marry in so much of the western world; we can walk through the streets hand-in-hand and yet it would be naïve to think that personal struggles related to sexuality aren’t still going on. Attacks on the LGBTQ community still happen, but we’ve seen our communities respond with an unprejudiced sense of unity. I’m so grateful that I live in an age where I can be out and proud and express my perspective through the medium of music.”
Cardiff-born and London-based, Lee received his undergraduate degree from Leeds College of Music and his campaign to raise £5,000 has attracted support from across the country with over 55% raised at the halfway mark.
For such a qualified musician, Lee’s story is one of humour and determination. His first gig with his band prompted an official complaint from the examiner-in-chief at the Royal Academy of Music. It was his final recital for his masters in jazz piano, but Lee went in with a band full of pop musicians. The audience whooped and cheered so raucously that a formal email was sent to all students about ‘appropriate’ exam conditions.
While touring with Alice Zawadzki, Lee worked with the Manchester-based “Amika” String Quartet whose stunning playing led him to arrange his music for strings, and invite them to a week-long recording session in the Autumn of 2016. From there, the album progressed into an offering that spans a decade of work with an authentic and highly talented group of musicians.
Lee needs to raise the full £5,000 by midnight on Tuesday 11 April and would welcome support from all corners. Visit www.bit.ly/petelee to join this exciting new project.
– End –
For further information, contact:
Leah Thomas @ Blue Flamingo
Notes to editors:
Lee recorded for five days in Fieldgate studio in Cardiff. The musicians involved are: Pete Lee (piano/compositions), Josh Arcoleo (sax), Alex Munk (guitar), Huw Foster (bass), Ali Thynne (drums), and the “Amika” Strings: Laura Senior (violin), Rich Jones (violin) Lucy Nolan (viola) and Peggy Nolan (cello). The session was recorded by Andy Lawson, Alex Killpatrick & Matt Williams at Fieldgate Studios in South Wales. Matt Roberts produced the album.
We are big Narcissus fans and we were looking forward to hearing them at the Pizza Express Jazz Club on this brisk January afternoon. Last time we reviewed them almost exactly a year ago, we described them as: ‘sublime chaos, a great schizophrenic identity crisis of genre which against all odds makes sense.’
Eager to hear their signature pop grooves and melodic lines that weave through the Narcissus sound, we were a little unsettled to hear at the top of the set an aimless sound world. Whilst pianist and leader Peter Lee still played with heartbreaking beauty we were longing to hear melody with regular time, longing to know where this tune was going. So unusual was this start, that when the melodic ‘head’ was breathed into life by sax player Josh Arcoleo, it was like the shoulders relaxing down after being taught with tension. No wonder it had that effect: Lee told us afterwards that the tune is entitled, Bi-Polar. The ‘aimless’ alongside ‘happiness’ juxtaposition is a new sound to Narcissus. Highly effective and definitely an unnerving start to the set it was good to hear the group play slightly riskier tunes.
Dependency starts as many Narcissus tunes do, with a piano introduction: hymn-like homophonic sounds. It has parallels with The Dreamer – a cover played later in the set. Dependency, with it’s lilting 6/8 rhythms, also welcomed guitarist Tom Varrall to the stage. In some ways it’s a very ‘classical’ tune – with an exposition of the melody and a haunting piano cadenza leading back to the head. The tune ended as it started, with the rest of the band adding small sounds, like a memory, lost in the echoes of subtone. Mirror Stage, a tune familiar to regular listeners starts with sparse unison chords, sounding like a syncopated bell chiming on the hour. The much awaited delicious groove appears, alongside beautiful melodies. This is possibly our favourite tune in the set. Lee’s Dave Smith synth emerged. We’ve raved about how much we love it and it’s radiophonic workshop sounds before, so we won’t so do again here. Narcissus went crazy. Arcoleo and Lee were epic and Varrall played a great funky guitar riff behind the madness.
The final tune of the first set, Did you have something to say? (Lee added, ‘in this case, no’) included most notably a beautiful bass solo from Foster. Most distinctively it ended with a frankly funny 80s synth sound wall from Lee. It appeared to have the rest of the band laughing too. It acted as a response to the tune’s question: Did you actually have something to say? No. Make of that what you will.
Untitled announced the start of the second set – with an epic solo from Varrall. It’s perhaps the most ‘pop’ influenced tune of the set, with groove juxtaposed by lyrical balladic melodies. Criss Cross featured the beautiful lines of Huw Foster on bass – giving space to explore that sound world with no hurry. Just before they started their only cover of the set, The Dreamer, Lee explained that this tune demonstrated the more electronic route these guys have decided to pursue. That comes as no surprise – the distinctive sound of Lee’s synth playing have become more and more involved and each time we hear them play – and choosing the electronic vibes of this Mehliana tune fit in perfectly. The Dreamer segued seamlessly into Writer’s Block a tune where you never know what’s coming next. Yes, we happen to know this tune fairly well, it’s performed on most their gigs and is strong melodically and harmonically. Yet still it is filled with surprises and the band work so well as a whole on this tune. Narcissus are an electric ensemble, juxtaposing solid groove with utter chaos. They sit together so well and love listening to one another play. There are moments that are just massive – and then a mere breath later, there is a perfect silence. Maybe that is what they do best. Cherish the quiet.
Dear Narissus – please please please record an album.
Pete Lee’s Narcissus opened to a rammed house on this cold January evening at The Vortex, bringing fire and frenzy to East London.
Opening with a recent composition which was still ‘unnamed‘ Pete Lee (piano) started the tune with solo piano. A structurally complex work which integrated solo, heavy groove and ballad vibes, it really showed how many influences this ensemble has. Next up was Mirror Stage which brought tenor player Nadim Teimoori to the stage (we have previously heard Narcissus with Josh Arcoleo). Mirror Stage was a frenzy of sound with beautiful unison lines between Teimoori and Huw Foster (bass) moving on to what can only be described as a meditation of groove. (Pairing of unison lines across different instrument combinations is a delicious Narcissus hallmark). Lee’s solo here was a history of music for the piano, Brahmsian flourishes juxtaposed with contemporary ‘jazz’ harmony, alongside ‘piano basics’ of octaves and fourths. You never knew what was coming next. Tom Varrall on guitar demanded attention with a frenetic solo which inspired energy from the rest of the band. With sax returning with the head, guitar continuing soloing and the rest of the band playing a rhythmically displaced groove it was insane controlled mayhem. The colour of the guitar and sax voices blended so well that sounds were interlaced, lost and beautifully fused.
Third tune of the night, Criss Cross, moved sound worlds effortlessly, starting with solo bass which we mistook for guitar soloing, such was the lyricism. North African sounding filmic modes then segued into Sci-fi Blake’s 7-esque sounds from synth (a Dave Smith Prophet 12) with further sounds reminiscent of something you’d hear from the early days of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop.Ali Thynne, ever the master at the drums, changed the vibe completely, playing with hands on snare and toms. The tune went everywhere, a tango, sci-fi, romantic piano and then a phenomenal blow by Teimoori which brought the first full audience applause mid-tune. It was fantastic to see how much the band were loving Teimoori’s playing – Varrall especially. We wish we’d taken a photo of his face. Last tune of the night was the familiar Writer’s Block (vimeo below), a great tune which is forceful, angry, melodic with in your face groove. It’s our favourite actually.
Lee has a great band: five strong musical characters, each vibrant and individualistic, which he has nurtured to create a phenomenal sound. It’s chaotic, energetic, wild, they’re influenced by jazz, pop, disco, Rachmaninov and Debussy, modes, tangos, electronica – and remarkably it has a beautiful cohesion. Narcissus is sublime chaos, a great schizophrenic identity crisis of genre which against all odds makes sense.
Can’t wait to hear them again – (though we want more of the Dave Smith synth)! ~BF