July 06, 2016
July 5, New York City’s Bowery Alliance of Neighbors held a press conference at Cooper Union to announce the launch of 64 street posters celebrating the cultural history of the Bowery, “New York City’s Oldest Thoroughfare.”
Texts for the posters were written by eighteen experts on the Bowery’s seminal links to tap dance, vaudeville, Yiddish theatre, Lincoln, Stephen Foster, Irving Berlin, baseball, Houdini, Abstract Expressionism, the Beats, jazz and punk rock. Of these eighteen writers, one was Canadian: David Neil Lee of Hamilton, Ontario.
Active himself as an improvising double bassist, shortly after he finished school in the 1970s David Lee went to work for Coda, the protean jazz magazine started by English expatriate John Norris in 1958. During the years he worked for Coda and helped run the magazine, a sister record label, and the busy downtown Jazz and Blues Centre, Lee was steeped in the history of jazz music, and became active as a player himself, most often with Coda partner (and saxophonist) Bill Smith.
In later years, David Neil Lee worked with the legendary Canadian jazz pianist Paul Bley on his acclaimed autobiography Stopping Time: Paul Bley and the Transformation of Jazz (Véhicule Press, 1999). Soon, New York historians looking for jazz info were calling David Lee in Hamilton. In 2014, when Wolsak & Wynn issued the third edition of his The Battle of the Five Spot: Ornette Coleman and the New York Jazz Field, the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation sponsored a book launch at Manhattan’s New School for Public Engagement.
The street posters will be displayed at Cooper Union, and outside their respective sites. David Neil Lee wrote the explanatory text for the poster for the Five Spot Café at Five Cooper Square, and for the Tin Palace, a club that operated in the 1970s at Bowery and Second Streets.
For more information on Windows on the Bowery check out the Bowery Alliance of Neighbors website.