A Brief History Of Lee

Lee Feldman, born in 1959, is a New York based songwriter, pianist, singer and composer. He has released four critically acclaimed albums under his own name.

  • Living It All Wrong (Pure/Mercury Records 1996)
  • The Man in a Jupiter Hat  (Bonafide/Mercury Records 2000)
  • I’ve Forgotten Everything (Bonafide/Urban Myth Recordings 2006)
  • Album No. 4: Trying to Put the Things Together that Never Been Together Before (Bonafide/Urban Myth 2012)

Lee Feldman uses a Tin Pan Alley bounce to make twisted or troubled situations sound like parlor songs.

The New York Times

Lee’s 2004 cult superhero musical STARBOY (animated by Joe Campbell) has been shown at the Whitney Museum of American Art. 

Lee Feldman plays the piano in just the dry, subtle, understated manner that his dry, subtle, understatedly hilarious songs call for.

The Atlantic Monthly

He has also composed for and recorded with the Mantic Trio, The Night Owls jazz trio, and the band Edge.

Lee Feldman may be one of the best songwriters you never heard of. His tunes have a simplicity and beauty that can only come from compositional maturity and confidence garnered from years of experience.

Keyboard Magazine

Lee has had extensive training in classical piano, jazz piano and composition.  In spite of that, he writes music that has meaning and sticks in the brain. 

Lee lives in The Bronx with his wife and two children.

A Longer History of Lee

Lee Feldman was born in 1959 in Seattle, Washington. He grew up on Manhattan’s Upper West Side and attended Manhattan School of Music’s Preparatory Division, studying piano. His earliest musical influences were Beethoven, the Beatles, West Side Story, Carl Orff’s Music for Children, Theodore Bikel, the Weavers, and Tiny Tim’s “Tiptoe Through the Tulips.”

After moving to the suburbs in 1971, Lee started playing in rock bands focusing on Allman Bros., Jeff Beck, Jethro Tull and Cream; later in the 70s his band’s repertoire leaned more towards Mahavishnu Orchestra.

By 1976 Lee got into jazz and studied privately with Sir Roland Hanna; performed Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue” with the Mamaroneck High School Orchestra for their Bicentennial Concert; and played for itinerant singers and strippers at Jay’s Bungalow Colony in the Catskills.

Singer/Songwriter (Lee prefers the term dentist…)

Lee Feldman ca. 1982-1983

Lee attended Indiana University’s School of Music where he majored in music composition and minored in piano. He wrote instrumental pieces for dance groups, numerous chamber music works, an orchestral piece, and started writing pop tunes. He was also increasingly involved in free improvisation and his senior recital reflected all these directions. His teachers at Indiana University were Fred Fox and Bernhard Heiden (composition); John Ogdon and Robert Goldsand (piano).

Lee moved back to Manhattan in 1981. In 1983, his chamber music piece “Prayer (for tenor and percussion)” was performed at Carnegie Recital Hall at a concert of The Academy of American Song. John Rockwell, reviewing the concert for the New York Times, wrote “by far the most original piece of the evening was Lee Feldman’s ‘Prayer’… the effect was surreal, disorienting and strangely powerful.” That same year, Lee began performing his songs in public.

Lee Feldman With Peter Cherches at La Mama La Galleria, ca. 1986.

During the 80s Lee was active in New York’s downtown scene, performing his own music at now defunct venues like Darinka, The Cat Club, Café Poppolini’s, The Angry Squire, the original Knitting Factory and still extant venues like La Galleria at La Mama. He collaborated with other downtown artists such as Peter Cherches, Elliott Sharp and Paul Steven Ray. In 1986 Lee wrote and produced “Invitation,” an evening of music, theater and dance at Washington Square Church; it was a further step in his attempt to fuse his interests in song, theater, and improvisation into acts of public introspection.

Lee supported himself throughout the 80s and 90s by working as a freelance proofreader and word processor in New York law firms. Aspiring producer Roger Peltzman had seen Lee perform his song “Carolyn” at an animal rights benefit concert at Under Acme and approached Lee in 1993 to suggest they make an album together. Two and a half years later, they completed Living It All Wrong, a spare and classic pop album that featured Lee on vocals and piano, accompanied by drums, electric bass and occasional string and wind arrangements.

Roger became Lee’s manager and shopped the album to labels relentlessly. Lee was signed to Pure Records, an independent label that had a distribution deal with Mercury Records. Living It All Wrong started to garner amazing international press from Atlantic Monthly, Chicago Tribune, Les Inrocktubiles, USA Today, SPIN and many others.

Lee Feldman promo photo ca. Jupiter Hat

Pure Records went bankrupt in 1997 but because of the outstanding reviews, Mercury decided to sign Lee to make a second album. The result was The Man in a Jupiter Hat, also produced by Roger, featuring Lee’s trio along with diverse New York musicians such as Dave Schramm, the Blues Bros. horn section, a Kurt Weill-styled orchestra and Irish pennywhistle virtuoso Joanie Madden.

Mercury’s corporate parent PolyGram was acquired by Seagram in 1998. Lee was forced to wait two more years for successor label Universal to decide whether it would release the finished album. A deal was finally struck and Lee released The Man in a Jupiter Hat in 2000 on his own imprint, Bonafide Records.  It too garnered unrivaled press from publications like Keyboard Magazine, People Magazine, The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Village Voice and Time Out New York

Lee was featured in a segment on NPR’s All Things Considered.  He performed regularly at New York venues such as Fez, The Knitting Factory, The Living Room, Makor, The Bottom Line, and performed on WXPN’s World Café, WFMU’s Irwin Chusid Show, WNYC’s Around New York, and WBAI’s All Mixed Up.

21st Century Lee

In 2000 Lee returned to his free improvisation roots and took a month-long workshop with Cecil Taylor.  It was amazing.  He also started supporting himself solely as a musician.  Since then, he has taken on many jobs– working as a pianist for a pre-school music program; teaching privately; writing music-related criticism and essays; working for National Dance Institute as an accompanist and music director; playing bluegrass and old time music for kids with his old friend, fiddler Henry Hample; and teaching on the piano faculty of Third Street Music Settlement.  Lee formed a teacher’s union at Third Street, and served as president from 2012-2016.

In 2002-2003, Lee developed two music theater projects, Greene and STARBOY.   Greene, a surreal and funny dream-noir musical based on the Arthurian legend of the Green Knight, was staged as a radio show.  Greene had a 2 week run at the Abingdon Theater and was featured on WBAI and WNYC’s Soundcheck. Lee initially created STARBOY, a 30 minute musical for Dixon Place’s 2002 “Not For Broadway” festival.  In 2004, STARBOY was animated by Joe Campbell, “fleshing out” the story of a 2-dimensional superhero.  The animated STARBOY has won awards and been screened in festivals in the US and UK.  In 2005 STARBOY was performed live, to animation, at The Whitney Museum for American Art.

In 2006 Lee released I’ve Forgotten Everything. Produced by Edward Haber (who has produced albums by Andy Statman and Linda Thompson) the album features Lee’s trio of many years, bassist Byron Isaacs and drummer Bill Dobrow.  A synthesis of Lee’s songcraft, surreal mindscapes, borscht belt humor, indelible melodies and free improvisation, this album features performances by guest artists like Teddy Thompson, Steven Bernstein, Rob Berger, Curtis Fowlkes, Joel Frahm and many others.  It too has received glowing reviews in many online and print publications such as Stereophile, Absolute Sound, Lucid Culture, and was heard on radio stations across the country and featured on Vin Scelsa’s Idiot’s Delight (WFUV) and WNYC’s Soundcheck.

Still from the Documentary Short “Lee Feldman, Lee Feldman”

In 2007, Lee was the subject of Lee Feldman, Lee Feldman, a 20-minute documentary by Maya Mumma.  The film was premiered at The New School.  In 2009, Lee decided to franchise himself and established the Lee Feldman Franchise, in which he licenses his stage patter and song so that others can have all the fun.  The franchise was kicked off in style at the Be Lee Festival at Joe’s Pub.

In 2011, inspired by Lee’s study of Hebrew with Rabbi Shmuly Lein, Lee Feldman and cellist Noah Hoffeld released Sacred TimeJewish Music for Cello and Piano. Alicia Svigals (founder of The Klezmatics) said “Sacred Time is magical . . pure beauty.”

In 2012, Lee released Album No. 4: Trying to Put the Things Together that Never Been Together Before.  This was the first album that was produced by Lee (as well as written and arranged by him) and was recorded at the illustrious Magic Shop in NYC with a supporting cast of NYC luminaries including Amy Allison, Dan Bryk, Pete Galub, Clark Gayton, Greta Gertler, Richard X. Heyman, Noah Hoffeld, Maxim Moston, Glenn Patscha, Mauro Rofosco, Nadia Sirota and Doug Weiselman.  Album No. 4 garnered widespread critical acclaim and was chosen as one of the best of 2012 by WFMU’s Irene Trudel.

In 2017, Lee founded Eldermusik, a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization whose mission is to bring stimulating music classes to seniors and senior residences.  In part to learn more about the non-profit world, Lee went back to school in 2018 and in 2020 he received his MSW (Social Work) from Lehman College in the Bronx (Lee and his family relocated to Riverdale, Bronx in 2013).  Lee is currently working as a social worker at WSFSSH (www.wsfssh.org).

In 2020, Lee released two very different albums:  Neighborhood Changed Fast, with Mantic Trio, an experimental improvisational trio with drummer Chris Moore and guitarist Rob Price.  Author Peter Markus:  “This is like Flipper meets Butthole Surfers meets Eno meets Psychic TV meets bizarre jazz shit I have no idea who. This is new breakthrough shit. Melodic, ambient dissonance. Discord alien wavelength.  On its own level.” 

Also in 2020, Lee released Keep Me Around by Edge on Urban Myth Recordings.  Edge was Lee’s band from 1973-1975 and the album brought together four friends who have remained musicians after 47 years.  Featuring all new material by Lee and guitarist Bob Windbiel, the album was released on vinyl as well as digitally.  In the words of syndicated columnist Ed Symkus: ”It turns out that Thomas Wolfe was wrong.  You can, indeed, go home again.”