Spike Lee’s dad and the flute great honored by the Central Brooklyn Jazz Consortium

He’s hall that! Brooklyn Jazz Hall of Fame honors Bill Lee, Herbie Mann

The Brooklyn Paper
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The beat goes on in gentrified Brooklyn.

The Brooklyn Jazz Hall of Fame inducted Bill Lee, the legendary bassist and dad to firebrand filmmaker Spike Lee, whose recent remarks about the changed face of Fort Greene made headlines, along with famous flautist Herbie Mann during a ceremony on Tuesday night. Lee, who still lives in Fort Greene and has battled with new neighbors over the alleged noise of his jam sessions, was on hand to accept the vindicating award, while musician Romero Lombardo accepted the honor for Mann, who grew up in Brighton Beach and died in 2003. Mann’s widow, Janeal Arison, also delivered a recorded speech.

“It was in his home in Brooklyn that he began banging on pots and pans,” Arison said about Mann. “Then his mom got him a clarinet to keep the neighbors happy — and the rest was history.”

A crowd of 172 people attended the event at the Brooklyn Historical Society in Brooklyn Heights.

Between awards ceremonies, the nomadic Hall of Fame is housed primarily in the minds of its organizers and inductees, but the event doubled as a fund-raiser for securing it a physical home one day.

The crowd went silent when the message from Arison played, followed by a rendition of the Sammy Cahn tune “Time After Time.”

Mann was Russian American but made his name adapting Brazilian, Afro-Cuban, and funk and soul music into his flute-driven jazz groove. He crossed over to disco in the 1970s and had a hit with the song “Hi-Jack.”

Lee is a session bassist who has played on over 245 projects, including albums jazz titans the likes of Bedford-Stuyvesant’s Max Roach, folk giants such as Bob Dylan, Odetta, and Woody Guthrie, and blues legends including John Lee Hooker. He also scored his son Spike’s first four movies and had a hand in a number of Disney soundtracks, including the one for “101 Dalmatians.”

More recently, he produced Destiny’s Child’s breakout album “Survivor.”

The Brooklyn Jazz Hall of Fame also awarded 15-year-old saxophonist Rodney James its Young Lion award.

The hallowed hall was started by the Central Brooklyn Jazz Consortium in 2000 to preserve the borough’s singular jazz heritage, according to the group.

“Brooklyn’s rich jazz history and tradition has not been chronicled before this,” said consortium communications director Bob Myers. “When people think about jazz, they think about Harlem or the Village, but no one thinks about Brooklyn.”

Past inductees include Max Roach, Lena Horne, Freddy Hubband, and Betty Carter.

The Central Brooklyn Jazz Festival is running now through April 30. For a schedule, visit

Reach reporter Danielle Furfaro at or by calling (718) 260-2511. Follow her at
Updated 10:17 pm, July 9, 2018
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