Raised in Southern California, Japanese-American jazz saxophonist Kenji Lee has already made his mark as a remarkable improviser, composer, and musician. He is the protege and former bandmate of late-great bassist Roger Shew. A resident of Ann Arbor, Michigan, Kenji currently performs frequently as a leader with "Sakura" - a creative music ensemble featuring string quartet, with "Juarez - Lee - Alvarez" - a chordless trio, and with PAUL JAMS - a hip/hop electronic duo. Kenji also works as a sideman in many groups including NY based Davy Lazar's Antigoat. He has also lent his talents to the pop/hip-hop realm, performing with the likes of Allen Stone, Vic Mensa, and Lil Dicky.
Kenji began playing piano at age 4, clarinet at age 9, saxophone at 13, and contrabass at age 15. His love of improvised music blossomed out of his musical relationship with many Southern California jazz heavyweights, including Roger Shew and Jeff Ellwood. On the advice of his mentor Roger Shew, Kenji attended the University of Michigan to study with some of his musical heroes including Benny Green, Robert Hurst, and Andrew Bishop.
Kenji has performed and worked with some of the most legendary names in jazz including Gary Burton, Carl Allen, Kendrick Scott, Ingrid Jensen, Michael Formanek, Jon Irabagon, Robert Hurst, and Benny Green. In April 2015, Kenji traveled to New York City to perform a series of original compositions for large ensemble at Carnegie Hall as a part of the historic Carnegie Hall Heritage Festival. Later that year, Kenji won the coveted title of "2015 Orange County Register Artist of the Year" (Instrumental Music).
Kenji has performed at various venues across the country including Carnegie Hall (New York City, NY), The Detroit Jazz Festival (Detroit, MI), Cliff Bell's (Detroit, MI), 2018 JEN Conference (Dallas, TX), Ziggy's (Ypsilanti), Jazz Central Studios (Minneapolis, MN), Bert's (Detroit, MI), Kerrytown Concert House (Ann Arbor, MI), Hill Auditorium(Ann Arbor, MI), Steamer's Jazz Cafe (Fullerton, CA), and Renee & Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall (Costa Mesa, CA).
His debut record with "Juarez - Lee - Alvarez" will be released in the Spring of 2018.
Kenji currently splits his time between, performing professionally, teaching, and working as the Canterbury House's Concert Series Coordinator.