Will Lee – Love, Gratitude and Other Distractions
You may know him as the designated screamer in the CBS Orchestra on David Letterman’s show. Whenever there’s a need (or not) for an on-air, unearthly blood-curdling scream, bassist Will Lee is tapped to deliver a tonsil rattling shriek redolent of brain chomped zombie victims. Lee’s vocal and bass playing talents are on display throughout the show, but unfortunately many of his great vocal leads on the soul classics bandleader Paul Shaffer calls are preempted by commercials so the viewing audience only gets to see snippets of the beginning and end of the tunes.
But in all other aspects of his musical life, Lee has no trouble being heard. His pedigree includes stints with the Brecker Brothers and The Horace Silver Quintet as well as studio sessions with a diverse group of artists including Aretha Franklin, Ray Charles, Bette Midler, Frank Sinatra, Chaka Khan and Weather Report. He tours with jazzy bluesman rocker Oz Noy, and the Beatles tribute band the Fab Faux in addition to a current Brecker Brothers reunion tour.
Love Gratitude and Other Distractions, on Sinning Saint Ltd., is Lee’s first solo first release since `93’s Oh, which featured an eclectic mix of rock and jazz. On this one he’s more rock oriented, with a funk base.
Allen Toussaint’s “Get Out Of My Life Woman” features a funky Larry Graham- worthy bassline, further decorated by ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons, who Lee says wanted to record while suffering from a brutal head cold, making him sound even more crusty and soulful than usual. Toussaint adds the finishing touch, sprinkling piano tinkles around the edges.
Lee takes Charlie Chaplin’s “Smile” to alien territory. It’s beautiful, otherworldly and sparse, backed by an orchestral space chorus, Lee’s bass chiming like lead guitar.
“Papounet’s Ride” sounds a bit like Ray Phiri’s guitar work on Paul Simon’s ’85 classic Graceland.
Those who have criticized Lee for not being more jazzy on this release should listen to “Natives,” based on Horace Silver’s 64′ composition “The Natives Are Restless Tonight.” Lee’s jungled it up, with the mighty Steve Gadd’s Gene Krupa-esque pounding accelerating your pulse rate and Oz Noy’s guitar providing some wiggly psychedelic figures in the middle of this ’80s sounding jazz/rock fusion piece.
You won’t find any blood curdling screams here. As he demonstrates ably on this release, all Will Lee needs to do to call attention to himself is to just be himself.