We are grateful to start our collaboration with White Plains Jazz Fest and ArtsWestchester on a good note–with an oral history by Kenny Lee, whose life and music are important parts of White Plains history.
Lee is known to different people for different things. Some know him as a trumpet player and band leader of the Kenny Lee All Stars. Others know him as a detective with the White Plains Police Department. Lee was born in White Plains and, taking after his father, started playing trumpet at an early age. He played in the White Plains Schools in the jazz and marching bands. After four years in the United States Marine Corps (more specifically in the Marine Corps Band), he was honorably discharged and returned to White Plains.
Lee's stories are enduring and timely, calling our attention to the joys and challenges of life in the city of White Plains. He retired from the White Plains Police Department as a Detective 1st Grade after 22 years of service. During that time, Lee successfully brought attention to the challenges black men faced on the police force. He joined with other black officers to bring a lawsuit that led to promotions and fairer treatment. Even today, Lee is involved in efforts to make sure other retired police officers (especially patrolmen) are not negatively affected by rising healthcare costs. Add to that his current work as a teacher and performer, and it's easy to see that Kenny Lee is important to White Plains.
Stay tuned for more oral histories from the partnership between ArtsWestchester and People & Stories. We will be making them available leading up to Jazz Fest 2016, which will be held September 20-25, 2016, in various venues throughout White Plains. The Kenny Lee All Stars will be playing at Copper Face Jack's at 7:30 PM on Wednesday, Sept. 21, as part of the Downtown White Plains Jazz Stroll. If you can't wait until then, you can also hear them at Yosemite Park in Greenburgh on Thursday, July 21, from 7:00 – 9:30 PM.