John Lee plays the guitar with biting power, flowing groove, and a fluency that reflects his wide range of influences. The Washington, D.C.-based guitarist, composer and bandleader draws inspiration from jazz, blues, Indian classical, alternative rock and West African music, but his work extends beyond all boundaries. Lee has performed with a host of stars, in a broad array of genres – from Matisyahu to Hassan Hakmoun to Cyro Baptista – and his own John Lee Experience has accrued a dedicated following in the D.C. area.
John’s love affair with the guitar began at age 10, and has never flagged. He attended Mannes College The New School for Music in the late 1990s and early 2000s, and learned from a diverse cast of gurus. He studied jazz guitar with Kurt Rosenwinkel, atonal improvisation technique with George Garzone, jazz and Middle Eastern music with David Fiuczynski, and South Indian frame drumming with Jamey Haddad.
After graduating, Lee co-founded Caveman, a psychedelic and world music-influenced instrumental quartet that accrued a strong cult following and released two well-received albums: Before the World (2002) and Totem (2005). Lee went on to perform alongside such notables as Matisyahu and David Amram, and toured the United States with the Malian talking drummer Baye Kouyate. Since 2009, Lee has toured domestically and abroad with the great Brazilian percussionist Cyro Baptista, Malian afropop star Fatoumata Diawara, the godfather of Gnawa music Hassan Hakmoun, and has played shows with names such as Christian Scott and Keller Williams.
In his hometown of Washington, D.C., Lee keeps a busy schedule as a first-call guitarist on the improvised music scene, playing with such local stalwarts as Tony Martucci, Kris Funn and Mark Meadows. His own group, the John Lee Experience, has shared bills with the Disco Biscuits, and performs at a range of venues around the D.C. area, including the Smithsonian’s popular Jazz in the Garden series two years running.
In 2011, Lee released Somewhere Impossible to Find, a full-length album that couples the soaring power of electric blues and ambient post-rock with a global blend of rhythmic influences. His follow-up EP, 2013’s The Nature Series, goes a step further, adding surf and spaghetti western guitar styles to the mix.