Bryan Lee: In Memorium 1943-2020

Bryan Lee
Bryan Lee playing Montreal

Whether he’s wailing a Freddy King inspired blues ballad, stomping out low down and dirty blues, or getting down with a super funky New Orleans groove, Bryan Lee is gonna grab your soul and squeeze it till you scream in blues ecstasy.

Duke Robillard

Bryan Lee passed away on August 21, 2020 in Sarasota, Florida. He was born Brian Leroy Kumbalek in Two Rivers, Wisconsin, on March 16, 1943. Lee lost his eye sight by age 8.

 I started listening in the early ’50s, pre-Elvis, to the pop music of the day. The stuff I grew up on with my folks was, like, Perry Como. When I was 10 or 11, I got a radio that could pick up stuff late at night. I got into country music big time – Hank Williams, Hank Snow, Ray Price, Chet Atkins, Les Paul, and Mary Ford. Then I started tuning in the other side of the dial, and I found a station from Nashville, WLAC, and they were playing all black music – blues, rhythm and blues, soul, gospel – and all their sponsors were record stores with mail-order. It was like discovering the Holy Grail.

Bryan Lee – Vintage Guitar Magazine

I first met Lee at the Le Medley. A club that sat on the corner of St Denis and Rene Levesque.  The building originally housed the The Old Munich until it closed in 1995 . In the late 90’s the Medley hosted the short lived “Le Medley Blues Festival”. It was there that I was first introduced to Bryan backstage. It was also the first time I saw him play and the first time I photographed him performing. The challenge was trying to capture the raw energy in Lee’s playing.  

Bryan Lee • 20 Years LIVE

[Gallery Scrolls Horizontally]

Lee’s extensive discography is full of original and authentic songs. His albums include The Blues Is… in 1991 for Montreal-based Justin Time Records; Braille Blues Daddyin 1995; Live at the Old Absinthe House Bar in 1997; Crawfish Lady in 2000; Katrina Was Her Name in 2007, and My Lady Don’t Love My Lady in 2009, all for Justin Time Records. Play One for Me was released in 2014.

Festival International de Jazz de Montréal 2018

Bryan Lee Website

Bryan Lee

I was fortunate to have images used on a few of Lee’s CD’s including the cover of “Live and Dangerous”. 

Bryan Lee


Montreal Jazz Festival Canada 2018

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