Smooth Emergence – New Artist Nelson Lee Found the Sound

Nelson Lee 2

Some people start testing the musical waters with social media, posting song snippets against a back beat from YouTube. Once in a while it’s surprisingly natural and seems destined to develop into something true.

One to watch and listen for in the near future would have to be Nelson Lee. The Missouri-based sax player has an innately sweet groove that has all the seeds to create a garden in full bloom. [Ed. side note: Jeff Lorber said, “He sounds good!”]

When you look back to hearing that sax player on TV for the first time, how did it make you feel?

The day I first saw a sax player on TV it gave me a feeling I’ve never had before; a wonderful feeling. It sparked something inside of me.

When did you start playing in school?

I started playing at the age of 11, when I was in the sixth grade.
What type of sax do you own and why?

I own an alto, but I am versatile and can play tenor and soprano as well.

What is the most rewarding part of playing alto sax? 

I can play really nice clean high notes closer to a soprano, and I can also play low notes closer to a tenor, which gives me a bit more flexibility to please the ear of the audience.

What is the most challenging? 

After playing so many gigs on a reed that you really like and don’t want to change, you start clipping just out of stubbornness of not wanting to change it!
Where do you go, in your head, when you hear or play smooth jazz?

I go into a whole different atmosphere, I think of nature and peace. A deep meditation mode. I think of past events and where the future will take me.
What inspires you when you compose? 

To know that I’m putting something together that comes from within me and that what I feel people can connect to.

What about all the awards and competitions you’ve won in school?

It meant to me that I am capable and that I have the potential to pursue and be successful in my career as a sax player.
Who are the musicians you record with and what do they play? 

I have yet to record with anyone but am open to it in the future. All of my work so far has been myself as a solo artist along with a beat that’s been created.
What is the most important thing to you in collaborating in an ensemble?

Articulation and tightness, for everyone to feel connected, vibes must be on point. With all due respect, they all need to be up to par, on skill and sound honest.
Who would you like the chance to perform with?

There are many in mind, including Pieces of a Dream, Brian Culbertson, Paul Hardcastle and Jeff Lorber.
It’s early in your career. Where do you see yourself going in the immediate future?

Literally around the world, hoping to inspire as many people as I can.
What clubs have you played?

I have played at various places in Arkansas, Tennessee, Missouri and in Texas.
Where would you most like to play?

I have yet to play on a cruise. To say the least, that’s one to mark down in the books for the future.
What are the names of some of your singles?

I currently do not have any singles but I am working on some upcoming singles and then an album.
Where is your recording studio?

Currently in my home.
Do you play full-time? If not, how will you make a path to get you there?

I do not currently play full-time but I would like to make it my full-time career. I am at work on my plan of action to get there.

Who are your biggest influencers – personal and musically speaking?

From Charlie Parker, John Coltrane, and Miles Davis all the way to Kenny G, Gerald Albright, Dave Koz and David Sanborn. But there are so many more I could name.
What do you want people to know about you (your music) that they don’t yet know?

I want them to feel what I feel, the happiness and passion and love that I have for music, to be spread among people and lift their spirits.
Are you the “one to watch”?

With confidence I’m going to say that I definitely am, that when the energy is right and the music is flowing you will probably catch me moving around or dancing. If the energy and vibe are right good things can definitely come from that. Either way the music will speak for itself.

For more information visit

Photos courtesy of and with permission of Nelson Pettigrew.
(c) Debbie Burke 2018




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