Encyclopedia of Jazz Musicians
Cuje, Lennie, vibist; b. Giessen, German, 1 January 1933. He had a classical music training on piano and trumpet at the "Musische" Music Conservatory in Frankfurt (M) under the direction of Professor Kurt Thomas from 1943 to 1945. He immigrated to the United States in 1950 and attended Washington-Lee High School. He graduated in 1952 and after serving in the U.S. Air Force during the Korean War, switched to Vibraphone and studied with percussionist Bob Zipp. After touring Florida with Eddy Powell and Marion De Vito he entered East Tennessee State University and studied Music Composition with Dr. Richard A. Coolidge.
In 1960, returning to Washington, Cuje joined Elsworth Gibson and the "Musical Pops" with Buck Hill, Wilbur Little, and George Brown. In 1961 he toured and recorded with Buck Clark's Band for Argo Records. He then formed his own group with Billy Hart, Walter Booker, and Charles Ables.
In 1963 Cuje went to New York and did advanced studies with vibists Warren Chiasson and Dave Pike. He played with artists such as Albert Daily, Marcel Daniels, "Philly" Joe Jones, Dave Amram, Hank Mobley, Larry Coryell and Walter Bolden. He and Larry Coryell composed and played the music for the movie, "Up Jumps the Devil," also the soundtrack for an ABC television special on surfing as well as several industrial films.
Cuje returned to Washington, D.C. in the seventies and was funded by the Arlington Department of Cultural and Social Services to setup a special music program for four Intermediate Schools. However, he did not perform again until 1979 when Bill Potts encouraged his return with guest appearances at Frankie Condon's. This was followed by four Concerts with the U.S. Navy Commodores, which led to the reunion with his old friend, Bassist Steve Novosel, and the formation of a new ensemble. They have since performed in clubs such as Charlie's of Georgetown, the New Haven Lounge in Baltimore, at the Kennedy Center Kool Jazz Festival, The Alexandria Fine Arts Society, Concerts on the Canal, and Strathmore Art Center. His quartet completed a successful tour to "Ethel's" in Baltimore and the "Starlite" Room in Boston, backing up recording artist, Meredith D'Ambrosio.
Cuje also recorded an album with "Hot Jazz" and performed with them as a guest artist at the well-known "Blues Alley" and the Manassas Jazz Festival. He was on hand to back up "Wild" Bill Davison when he was inducted into the Jazz Hall of Fame and in 1987 his quartet demonstrated the "History of the Vibraphone" at the Smithsonian's series, "Alive and Kicking!"
In addition to having conducted Jazz Seminars at Northern Virginia Community College, the Blues Alley Youth Orchestra, and with Marshall E. Maley, jr. at George Mason University, Cuje has been performing with the Lou Rainone Trio at Baltimore's Harbor Court Hotel since January 1987. He and Rainone have developed an instructional program, which has been presented at Jazz Seminars for High Schools in Maryland, Virginia, and the District of Columbia. Cuje has been, and is still very active with the Jazz Program at his former High School, "Washington-Lee" in Arlington, Virginia.
In August 1990 Cuje gave a solo performance for the Kennedy Center Educational Department and on September 23, his Quintet opened the Kennedy Center's "Festival of the Arts" and for the 20th Anniversary in 1991. Since then he has had several return engagements at the Center, the Corcoran, and the Phillips Art Gallery.
In the summers of 1990 and 1991 Cuje was a guest artist in Switzerland and Germany. He recorded several Broadcasts for the Voice of America and in 1993 he was the co-featured artist with Bassist Peter Ind and Guitarist Garry Wittner at London's Jazz Club, "The Bass Clef."
In 1995 his Quartet performed for Mrs. Clinton at the opening of the White House Collection of American Crafts, and also played at President Clinton's Victory Party in November 1996 followed by three Presidential engagements in 1997.
From 1984 until September 1994 his band, consisting of internationally known artists, was the Sunday night feature at Washington's famous "One Step Down."
In August 2000, New York based pianist Mike Wilner invited Cuje to perform with him and his Quartet at New York City's cutting edge Jazz Club "Smalls", which led to 2 more returns in 2001 and 2002. There he was reunited with old and new friends such as Walter Booker, Leroy Williams, Joe Cohn, Billy Kay, Manny Duran, Grant Stewart, Joe Magnarelli, Paul Gill, Joe Strasser, Neal Miner and Bertha Hope. There is more information about Lennie Cuje in "The Jazz Scene" by Royal Stokes (Oxford University Press 1991).
Live at Smalls (2000); Return to Smalls (2001); Smalls Revisited (2002)
U.S. Navy Commodores: Comin' Back (1979); Ron Holloway: Slanted (1994); Jay Cooley Trio: Vibes (1998); Forty Years of Good Vibes: Excerpts (2000); with Mike Wilner, Steve Novosel, Kenji Rabson: Jazz at Harbor Court (2003)
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