"Jihye Lee is emerging as a strong voice in the 'next generation' of composers for large jazz ensemble. Her music is imaginative and creative. And she's not afraid to take some exciting chances in her writing. I strongly urge you to check her out!"
- Jim McNeely
Jihye Lee is a New York-based jazz composer and bandleader.
She was an indie pop singer-songwriter in South Korea. Feeling that something was missing, Lee followed her curious heart and embarked for uncharted waters in 2011. She studied at the Berklee College of Music where she was introduced to big band music for the first time in her life, leading her to forge a whole new path in jazz composition. Soon after, she would receive the prestigious Duke Ellington Award for two consecutive years along with other scholarships and honors, confirming her hidden ability.
After graduating from Berklee, Lee organized a successful crowdfunding campaign for her first big band album, April, which was co-produced by Greg Hopkins and recorded with musicians consisting of other Berklee faculty and professionals from the Boston area. In 2015, with generous funding from school scholarships and the CJ Cultural Foundation, Lee finally moved to New York to study with Jim McNeely at the Manhattan School of Music.
Lee released her album, April, in 2017, garnering global praise as a fresh original voice on the jazz composition scene. She has presented her music in the United States and Asia at various venues and festivals including the DC JazzFest.
The BMI Foundation awarded Lee with the Charlie Parker Jazz Composition Prize in 2018. Recently, she has written music for the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra and Carnegie Hall’s NYO Jazz. She is currently working on her second album.
Jihye Lee Orchestra ㅡ 'April'
"With its chamber-like woodwind textures, involved harmony and sectional counterpoint, and persistent rhythmic drive, Lee's music fits comfortably within a resurgent large-ensemble format whose exponents include Maria Schneider, John Hollenbeck, Darcy James Argue, and Andrew Rathbun. But Lee also imbues her compositions withhan, an ineffable sadness that serves as a dramatic element in much Korean art - compare the Brazilian saudade or American blues."
ㅡ David Adler, Village Voice
"Lee certainly embraced that richness on her remarkable debut, which is redolent of the coloristic bravura of the Maria Schneider Orchestra and the narrative complexity of Jim McNeely's arrangement."
ㅡ Shaun Brady, Jazziz
Four stars: "...a musical triumph born of an unspeakable tragedy, thought-provoking and gut-wrenching all at once. The music sings, sobs, and soars in its unfolding, leaving the listener with a carefully-crafted reflection on the event(s) and a glimpse into Lee's emotional core....April is simply unforgettable."
ㅡ Dan Bilawsky, All About Jazz
"Not your typical big band music It's very original, very beautiful, and very well thought-out, well orchestrated music."
ㅡ Greg Hopkins