Joe Lee Wilson
(December 22, 1935 – July 17, 2011)
This recording of “Sophisticated Lady” comes from singer Joe Lee Wilson’s 1976 album “Shout for Trane” with accompaniment provided by Monty Waters alto sax, soprano sax, and flute, Fielder Floyd trumpet, and flugelhorn, Shiroh Mori guitar,
Kiyoto Fujiwara bass, and George Avaloz drums.
Joe Lee Wilson (December 22, 1935 – July 17, 2011) was an American gospel-influenced jazz singer, originally from Bristow, Oklahoma. He is known for singing affecting ballads.
As his band’s name (Joy of Jazz) suggests, Wilson’s baritone personifies the life-affirming nature of jazz and blues. Seeing Billie Holiday perform in 1951 began his interest in a career in the music industry. He studied in Los Angeles before touring the West Coast, where he sat in with Sarah Vaughan, and down to Mexico. In New York in the 1960s, he worked with Sonny Rollins, Lee Morgan, Miles Davis, Pharoah Sanders and Jackie McLean; during the 1970s, he operated a jazz performance loft in New York’s NoHo district known as the Ladies’ Fort at 2 Bond Street. His regular band, Joe Lee Wilson Plus 5, featured the alto saxophonist Monty Waters (from Modesto, California) and for several years the Japanese guitarist, Ryo Kawasaki, before the latter left to lead his own group. Archie Shepp, and Eddie Jefferson were frequent collaborators at these sessions.
He also sang with Eddie Jefferson, Freddie Hubbard, and Kenny Dorham. He recorded a live radio program at WKCR-FM, Columbia University, on July 16, 1972, which was released as an album, Livin’ High Off Nickels & Dimes, on the short-lived Oblivion Records in New York. Wilson’s rendition of “Jazz Ain’t Nothing But Soul” was a radio hit on New York jazz radio in 1975.
Now based in Paris, Tokyo and the United Kingdom, he has recorded regularly with the American pianist Kirk Lightsey, including the Candid recording Feelin’ Good. There is also a recent Italian album recording with Riccardo Arrighini and Gianni Basso, “Ballads for Trane”.
He was inducted into the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame in November of 2010.
Joe Lee Wilson died on July 17, 2011 in Brighton, England after a long illness.