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Queen of Cups

by Lauren Lee

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Cogitation 05:23
in the clouds I lay my head into space I stare appreciate the time I waste by being up in the air after crashing down to earth I see it all so clear it's just my way to seize the day by being up in the air and in my mind time moves so slowly days run together now and then keeping good thoughts and good intentions won't stop the existential dread but in the clouds I feel at home creating my own reality if I would stop my adorations I would live life in misery
Mad House 03:49
if I should lose you the stars would fall from the skies if I should lose you the leaves would wither and die the birds in may would sing a lonely refrain and I would wander around hating the sound of rain with you beside me no wind in winter would blow with you beside me a rose could bloom in the snow I gave you my love but I was living a dream and living would seem in vain if I lost you
one foot in front of the other while I have a leg to stand on got ideals like any other, strong supports to put them on if I close my eyes I see someone who looks just like me killing it and never compromising if I look much closer I see that she actually is me but in another reality one day I woke in the morning pounding head and pounding heart something ignited inside me to grab the reigns and finally start if I close my eyes I see someone who looks just like me killing it and not apologizing if I look much closer I see that she actually is me but in another reality one thought I've come to rely on is only fear will hold me back in time I know I'll defeat the monsters out to cloud my head if I close my eyes I see someone who looks just like me killing it and never compromising if I look much closer I see that she actually is me but in another reality
I should care I should go around weeping I should care I should go without sleeping most days I sleep well except for a dream or two but then I count my sheep well funny how sheep can lull you back to sleep I should care I should let it upset me I should care but it just doesn't get to me maybe I won't find somebody as lovely as you but I should care and I do
Boxes 04:57
packed myself in boxes my whole life long not sure of where they'll go random shiny treasures catch my eye each time I go to unpack them and make room for something brand new I always wanted as I finally cut the tape and look inside I find a bounty of optimistic plans put on hold coffee-stained and torn into pieces it's not the right fit I'm not in the right place at the moment please check back again sometime before leaving for good is it just me can anyone hear my screaming echoing inside these empty promises I made to myself is it too late can I snap out of this stumble falling forward years in time before I get my step back why's it so hard why can't I admit how I'm dealing not the only person who has tried to deceive themself before packed myself in boxes my whole life long not sure of where they'll go
Footprints 05:10
Cocoon 05:01
I can come out of my cocoon floating softly down or I can sting like a bee the choice is yours I can keep my opinions to myself standing on my mark or I can change the world the choice is yours I can be whatever you want me to be


“Lauren Lee is one of a new breed of singer-songwriter. She has all the bona fides of a traditional jazz singer and pianist, but she needs to do things her own way. As a singer and composer, she gives her imprimatur to cross-cultural experimentation and off-the-beaten-track forms of vocal expression, never straying far from the post-bop mother ship” — Suzanne Lorge, All About Jazz

More than a year ago, Lauren Lee began crafting what would become a gesture of deep consciousness. Set for release on April 30, 2021, via ears&eyes, The Queen of Cups — Lee’s third album as a leader — reveals a resonant solo recording of creative exploration and personal growth.

Vocalist, pianist, and composer, the St Louis native-turned-New Yorker combines deliberate, textured arrangements with stark spontaneity across 10 tracks of original music and enduring tunes. “I want people to rethink what it means to be a jazz vocalist and also what ‘solo piano record’ or ‘piano vocal record’ means,” says Lee, “for people to listen to something that makes them think. I want it to provide a nice backdrop for thoughts and not just be something in the background — not really provoking you to do anything.”

Before the pandemic hit, Lee recorded four original compositions at Wonder Park Studio alongside engineer Chris Kraznow. At the time, she sought to release them as an EP, arranging each track with lush, layered vocals and fibrous solo instrumental sections that further establish her distinct voice as a composer and highly imaginative orchestrator. Soon, however, she found herself rethinking another roster of repertoire she’d set aside for a separate trio album.

“During the lockdown, I got very comfortable with the idea of redoing the tunes that were intended for the trio record,” says Lee, “reconceptualizing and shedding them as solo tunes.” With would-have-been trio material reframed in her mind — and in her ear — Lee set a socially distant record date at Big Orange Sheep to lay down six more tunes in August and complete the tracklisting for The Queen of Cups. But after hearing the rough mixes, she reexamined her resolve to overdub. “The tunes that are ‘thinner’ are the ones I had reserved as ensemble tracks,” she says. “After the first day of recording, I listened back and thought, ‘Mmm — it doesn’t feel right. It feels disingenuous to overdub because that’s not what I had wanted.”

The ensuing album would present a sound spectra ranging from bare and intimate to richly orchestrated. “This piano vocal record doesn’t have those typical characteristics of maybe cocktail piano and standards,” she says. “It’s half new music and half standards — but not necessarily ‘vocal’ standards.” Emotional content Lee expresses across the recording, lyrically and musically, meets the unusual moment, as well. “I found that as I was listening back, the intention hadn’t started with the idea that I wanted to capture every emotion that I felt during the lockdown,” she says, “but it ended up turning out that way.”

To evoke and translate those shifting feelings, Lee relies on a variety of creative vessels comprising varied instrumentation — piano, Fender Rhodes, voice and Wurlitzer; instrumental and vocal interpretation — frequently improvised; and lyrics — both original and beloved. The decision to include a fresh arrangement of Ralph Rainger’s and Leo Robin’s “If I Should Lose You” emerged for Lee, in part, from a creative process of elimination. The pandemic had started refocusing her perspective on what she had in place of support, resources, and understanding: “I thought, ‘What if I didn’t have these things? This would be miserable to deal with alone.’” She found the sentiment she could deliver through Robin’s lyric and her interpretation of Rainger’s iconic changes aptly served her impulse.

Apart from solitude and contemplation, the lockdown afforded Lee plenty of time to attend what she’d been pushing aside in order to book gigs and write new music — more specifically, hours to spend learning Pat Metheny tunes. “Pat Metheny is really comforting to me,” says Lee. She chose “Unity Village” for inclusion because of its invitational harmony as well as its title. “The tune is beautiful. It makes such a strong statement. The changes have a lot of colors and leave a lot of possibilities for color. It paints a very hopeful picture to me.”

Heartily arranged, “Up In The Air” serves as an atmospheric inquiry into Lee’s daily tendencies. “I’m a really indecisive person,” she says. “That’s something that has both benefited and worked against me.” Composing the tune, she embraced her own artistic impulses along with the hope that perhaps listeners also might relate to experiencing the creative dichotomy of indecision.

While she hadn’t planned for The Queen of Cups to address mental wellness explicitly, Lee found many of the tunes and quite a bit of the lyrical content she composed cycling through concepts of personal proclivity, self-awareness, and self-acceptance. Against a steady heartbeat, “Another Reality” reflects her own struggles with self-confidence and overcoming imposter syndrome. “I can live in that other reality and not just daydream about being that person, inside my head,” she says.

The record closes with Lee delivering sonorous layered vocals across “Cocoon.” Beyond lyrics, the track’s haunting harmony and blossoming form evoke a sense of awakening and self-discovery. “When I was younger, I was really into pleasing people and trying to fit into these boxes, which is what I also thought I had to do if I wanted to be a working musician,” says Lee. Admittedly, she took some time and quite a bit of soul-searching to realize if she persists in her own expression, allowing her true self to emerge, she can make an honest gesture as she has done with The Queen of Cups.

Lauren Lee is a St Louis-born vocalist, composer, and instrumentalist based in New York City. Her foray into expressive music began when she was a teenager performing with the St. Louis Symphony Chorus, an experience that would lead her on a personal journey to find her own sound on the creative music scene. A desire for knowledge and distinctive sound has taken her all over North America and Europe as an enterprising vocalist, composer, and bandleader. Likened by New York Music Daily/Lucid Culture’s Alan Young to the music of pioneers who came before her, such as Carla Bley and Jen Shyu, Lee’s music has been described as, “equal parts hip jazz, Avant adventure, and… something completely different” (John Pietaro, Dissident Arts). Her work intentionally nestles between what exists and what’s to come; she’s often praised for her virtuosic improvisational abilities and her emotional and harmonic prowess as a composer. The Queen of Cups reflects Lee’s third release as a leader, following her acclaimed albums Windowsill (2019) and The Consciousness Test (2016).


released April 30, 2021

Lauren Lee - vocals, piano, keyboards

Recorded and mixed at Wonderpark Studios & Big Orange Sheep by Chris Krasnow & Chris Benham in Brooklyn NY USA
Mastered by Chris Benham
Cover art and layout design by Andrea Witting

Released on indie label, ears&eyes Records:,,,,,


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Lauren Lee New York, New York

Pianist/ vocalist/ composer based in New York City.

New album out on ears&eyes Records this April 30

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