Norwegian jazz sax player returns for another gig at Valley.
By Jessica Perez, Contributor
During high school, the guitarist in Terry Lee’s blues band introduced him to John Coltrane’s classic jazz album, “A Love Supreme.” It was a revelation.
“The first note of Coltrane’s tenor sax I heard on that album, all I wanted to do was play the saxophone,” says Lee. “Coltrane’s sound was and still is pure magic.”
Outsiders might not think of Oslo, Norway as a hotbed of jazz, but it’s the home of the Oslo Jazz Festival and the Royal Norwegian Academy of Music where Lee received his music education degree. Still, he longed for the Mediterranean weather on the beaches near where his favorite music was being produced, so in his late 20’s, he headed for California.
Lee’s duo, Terje Lie, will be playing at Valley College at the Music Recital Hall on November 18th presenting a mixture of jazz and classical compositions, leaning towards impressionistic and abstract approaches.
“I love Debussy and Ravel, but one of my absolute favorite composers is Baroque composer Johann Sebastian Bach,” says Lee. “We’ll include his ‘Siciliano’ piece, which is the second movement from his Second Sonata for Flute and Harpsichord.
As a boy, he got started in music with the alto horn, the trumpet, and the guitar. He was a vocalist in a blues band during his high school years and went on to become a jazz vocalist. His passion for the saxophone didn’t start until he was 25. Lee feels it lets him express himself more fully than any other instruments; he had an instant connection to it while getting opportunities to tour through Sweden, Norway, and Finland with different blues and contemporary jazz bands.
“The tenor saxophone has a special value to me in particular. It feels like a part of me,” he says.
In California, he went back to school to get his Master of Music Degree in jazz studies at California State University Long Beach as well as pursuing postgraduate studies in music education. In college, his instrumental priority was the flute because of its use in classical music. Instructors warned him that playing the sax would make it difficult to maintain a pure sound because the classical flute needed to be very clear and crisp and saxophone players’ lip muscles develop in a way that makes that difficult.
Lee began performing solo during his junior year, singing American folk-style songs inspired by Bob Dylan, accompanied by the guitar. His quartet group which consists of a keyboardist, bassist, and a drummer played at Valley College in 2013 focusing on contemporary jazz and basic jazz tunes.
“Jungle,” a track on Terje Lie’s “Bright Moments” album, expresses a variety of funk rhythms and the guitar solos played by Terje Lies guitarist, Michael Landau hearken back to Jimi Hendrix. Lee incorporates a large spectrum of influences from blues, jazz, and various styles of funk. Though his main sources of inspiration are Coltrane and Miles Davis, he concludes that his inspiration is something much deeper and spiritual.
“My fundamental inspiration is a forceful energy inside of me,” he says.”I always hear and feel the music. The forceful energy is just part of my body at all times.”
Lee would like to leave a legacy of someone who was completely dedicated and played with a genuine and individual style. He explains that ambition is essential to pursue a passion because you’re satisfying a need that’s deep in the soul and body, the outcome is pure gratification.
“It’s about whether you have to play just like you have the need to eat,” he says. “If that need of playing music is in you, you really don’t have a choice. Music chooses you.”