Lee Free is a Brooklyn-born first generation Italian who started playing drums at age 10. He studied classical percussion at Brooklyn College under Dr. Arnie Lang, then became an integral part of NYC’s queer music and theater scene of the late 90’s and early aughts. He has performed in 48 of the United States and on 5 continents.
Lee says, “I live in the complexity of extremes and differences. As a transman I embody male and female, light and dark, loud and quiet. As a musician, I write fun and silly children’s music, dark ballads, raging punk anthems and binaural meditation tracks.”
Lee’s new project is a collection of songs stripped down to solo Marimba and voice. The result is quiet and intimate, imagine Nina Simone and Neil Young joining forces on a 4 octave marimba.
The container allows Lee to reveal his delicate approach to lyricism, exploring the darker sides of love and loss, faith and futility, perseverance and redemption. This new songbook is connected to a larger media project—a screenplay called “Feast Of Amnesia”. It’s a shift from the loud raucous life of circus drummer and indie sidekick that launched him to all corners of the world.
As a percussionist and drummer, Lee has worked with legends of NYC’s downtown music scene, including Jennifer Miller’s Circus Amok, The Bindlestiff Family Circus, Great Small Works, Jennifer Monson’s Monsoon Orchestra, Terry Dames’s Electric Junkyard Gamelan, Bitch and the Exciting Conclusion (Bitch and Animal) , and JD Samson (Le Tigre) MEN, and Sarah East Johnson’s LAVA. He was a founding member of Inner Princess, Co-founded with Becca Blackwell and T Thompson. The band collaborated with Cirque du Soleil frontwoman Michelle Matlock on a theater piece about the lives of gender renegades Gladys Bently and Billy Tipton. In NY he’s performed at PS 1, Dixon Place, BAM’s Fischer Theater, St Mark’s Church, Theater for the New City, Joe’s Pub, the Knitting Factory, Barbes, Zebulon.
As a touring musician, he has performed in Asia, Australia, Europe and South America.
Lee was awarded the 2012 and 2014 Puffin Foundation grant for his work on Mor Erlich’s LGBTQ children’s web series, “Sez Me,” and the Brooklyn Arts Council’s 2010 Individual Artist Grant for his project “Brooklyn Bike Beat”, an on-line archive of percussionists working to keep traditional drum languages alive.
He recently relocated from Brooklyn to Los Angeles.