Ranee LEE 2000

Ranee Lee, one of Canada’s greatest jazz vocalists, began her professional stage career as a dancer. From there she moved on to playing drums and tenor saxophone with various touring groups in the United States and Canada. In early ‘70s, Ranee settled in Montreal and her singing took over from past musical endeavours. Since then, she has become one of Canada’s most popular jazz vocalists and recording artists, astounding audiences with her amazing range, flawless phrasing, powerful scatting and profound sensitivity. Miss Lee’s natural flare for dancing and acting makes each performance a dynamic, theatre-like experience.

Few vocalists impassion an audience the way Ranee Lee does. She is noted for her flawless delivery of great standards with a style that ranges from sensuous and warm to infectiously energetic. It is no wonder that through the years Ranee has matured into an accomplished songwriter as well; her original tune “Until I Was Loved” (Just You, Just Me, 2005) is the perfect example of her stunningly soulful, yet buoyant approach to composition.

A Dora Mavor Moore Award winning actress, Ranee starred in “Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill”, Canada’s first production of the musical portrayal of Billie Holiday, which enjoyed extended runs in both Toronto and Montreal. Her subsequent recording, Deep Song, released on Justin Time Records, was met with critical acclaim, and brought Ranee’s great vocal talent to the attention of jazz fans and concert producers throughout North America and Europe. The summer of 1995 saw Ranee enjoying a successful tour of Western Canadian jazz festivals, as well as a tour of the United States. In June 1996, a month-long South African tour featured Ranee as part of “The Canadian Jazz Giants.”

May of 2001 found Ranee in yet another Canadian first, co-starring in the role of Sadie Delany, a non-musical theatrical production of a one hundred and three year old survivor of racism, presented at Montreal’s Saidye Bronfman Centre For the Arts.

On February 27, 2003 CBC television debuted the Rhombus production of Stormy Weather, the story of the American Composer Harold Arlen, in which Ms. Lee co-starred in the role of Mrs. Owens. This production regularly airs throughout Canada and the United States.

Ranee Lee conceived, wrote and performed in the production of “Dark Divas,” a musical about the lives and times of some of the most popular black female entertainers of an era, including Sarah Vaughan, Ella Fitzgerald, Dinah Washington, Pearl Bailey, Lena Horne and others. Its release as a 2-CD recording of the same name garnered Ranee a Juno Award nomination in 2001.

Other notable career highlights include acting opposite Billy Dee Williams in the movie “Giant Steps” in 1991; an appearance as the opening act for the late George Burns at Montreal’s Place-Des-Arts in 1993; and a televised adaptation as Lady Day; “White Gardenia,” which aired on Canada’s CTV network during the summer of 1994.

Other recordings include “The Musical, Jazz on Broadway,” a successful marriage of jazz standards with the music of Broadway. In 1994 and again in 1995, Ranee received the Top Canadian Female Jazz Vocalist Award presented by Jazz Report magazine. Her album I Thought About You was the first nominated recording for a Juno Award in the Best Mainstream Jazz category in 1995. In 1998 Ranee received the Best Female Jazz Vocalist Award from the AFIM.

Ranee Lee’s latest recording Just You, Just Me sees her teamed up with pianist Oliver Jones, also one of Canada’s finest jazz musicians, and has already been singled out for several important awards. In 2006 the album was nominated for an INDIE AWARD, and it also won the Toronto Urban Music Award for Best Jazz Recording in November 2005.

You Must Believe In Swing, released in 1996 and featuring legendary bassist Ray Brown and drummer Ed Thigpen, received rave reviews from critics and the public alike, and charted in the influential Gavin Radio Charts in the USA. Ranee’s recording, Seasons Of Love, featuring Jeff Hamilton, John Clayton and special guest David Murray, was recorded at Capitol Studios in Los Angeles, and features standards as well as two originals penned by Ms. Lee and a collaboration with Oliver Jones.

The JUNO-nominated Maple Groove was released in March 2003, and its theme acknowledges the work of many of Canada’s finest composers and lyricists.

As the host of the television series “The Performers,” for the Black Entertainment Television network in the U.S. and BRAVO in Canada, Ranee brought the talent of Canadian jazz musicians to the attention of American and Canadian audiences.

Throughout her career, Ranee has performed with many jazz notables, including Clark Terry, Terry Clarke, Bill Mays, Herb Ellis, Red Mitchell, Milt Hinton, Oliver Jones, John Bunch and George Arvanitas. No stranger to the road, Ms. Lee has toured with her own group throughout the world and has played at many prestigious jazz festivals, most recently headlining the Festival International de Jazz de Montreal and the Capital festival in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Her participation in the 2001 edition of Montreal’s festival saw Ranee as host of an eight-episode series, as well as in 2002 as a performer and once again host of this series.

In April 2002 Ranee began a tour with an invitation to perform at the Classical Spring Rishon LeZion Performing Arts Centre, considered to be the newest and the finest in Israel, which hosts some of the best ensembles and artists in the world, for its third International Festival of Fine Arts. Ranee returned in October 2005 for concerts at the Holy Shrines of Dormition Abbey in Jerusalem and Tabgha Monastery on the lake of Galilee in a program of spiritual music, and music of hope.

At the invitation of the Mexican and Canadian Governments, Ranee and her musicians toured throughout Mexico, presenting the music of “Dark Divas” for the International Cervantino Festival of the Arts in October of 2002.

Ms. Lee is also an excellent and respected teacher. For outstanding service to jazz education, at the twenty-first IAJE conference in January 1994, Ranee received the International Association of Jazz Educators award. As an educator, Ranee has been on the faculty of the University of Laval in Quebec City for five years, and with McGill University’s Music faculty for twenty years.

As a recipient of the award for her contributions to the advancement of Black Art and Culture through the media of music and theatre in Montreal, Ranee was honoured at the “Visions Celebration ‘88” of the Black Theatre Workshop and the Foundation for Minority Arts and Culture.

In March 2003, Ranee was nominated for and became a finalist in the category of Personal, and Professional Accomplishments, Social Commitment and an Important Contribution to the Advancement of Women, an award to be given for Women of Distinction 2003 by The Women’s Y Foundation of Montreal. In April of that year, Ranee was given the award in the category of Arts and Culture.

Ranee’s most recent project entitled “Just You, Just Me” (June 2005) was recorded with Oliver Jones. The two, many will remember, were so elegantly paired on Ranee’s acclaimed Deep Song. Bassist Eric Lagacé and drummer Dave Laing add inspired and energetic support to the recording, an attractive blend of new, original compositions by Ranee and Oliver, complimented by some winning takes on several standards, including selections by Horace Silver and Hoagy Carmichael. “Just You, Just Me” was elected as the Jazz Album of the Year at the National Jazz Awards 2006 as well as nominated for a JUNO.

On August 31, 2005 it was announced that Ranee Lee would be designated as a Member To The Order Of Canada, the Country’s highest civilian honour, and she was subsequently invested on February 17th 2006.

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