Metal Queen showcases at JazzFest 2003

Medicine Hat News

The Metal Queen is moving into Tin Pan Alley.

Karen Golding, better known as Lee Aaron, will be one of the headline acts at the Medicine Hat JazzFest this week, in an act that's more brass than metal.
"I'm not 19 anymore, and it would be nice to be allowed to gracefully segway into an arena of music that can reflect my maturity as a person and as a performer," Aaron told The News from her home in B.C. "And the reality is that Lee Aaron fans aren't 18 anymore either."

Aaron broke onto the music scene in the 1980s, ultimately finding her biggest success with the 1989 release Body Rock which shuttled her into the international music scene. But while the album earned her recognition and reinforced the sticky title of the Metal Queen, Aaron says she wasn't content to ride the rock wave indefinitely. "There was a time nearing the end of the (Body Rock) tour where I thought, if I have to play What You Gonna Do to My Body one more time I'm going to cut my wrists, you know? There was no where left to go with it," she confesses. "I'm not content to keep touring playing the same songs, I think that as you grow up you are on a journey of evolving and moving in new directions, and my music reflects that. I wouldn't read the same book over and over again either."

This progression led Aaron back to the music of her youth -- showtunes, musical theatre and jazz. Having grown up on the songs of Gershwin, Rogers and Hart, Cole Porter and other Tin Pan Alley musicians, Aaron says returning to her first love was the most natural thing in the world. "Rock fans want to hear the same songs the same way all the time, but that's not the case with jazz. I don't have to perform these songs the same way every night, the beauty of this kind of music is that it's a real improvisational form," she said, adding her sets are a mix of her own compositions and classic jazz numbers.

But while the progression from metal to pop to jazz is natural for Aaron, she admits the public and critics occasionally have trouble making the jump. "My greatest success was as a rock artist, so I think people automatically default to that stereotype, and there's nothing I can really do about that," she says. "I've spent many years making that kind of music so I can't feel upset about that, the audience and the media will want to put you in a little box and keep you there. My only hope is that people are open minded enough to hear me doing something new." They seem to be.

Aaron is rapidly making a new name for herself in the jazz scene, with successes that include a spot in an upcoming concert series with jazz legend Cleo Laine. It's a shift that suits Aaron and the other priorities in her life, including as a parent, running community outreach programs for the homeless and working with special needs teens. "There is so much more to life than sitting around being concerned about how popular you are," she says. "There was a time in my youth when I really derived my self-worth from how popular I was, so it's very freeing to make music and feel you can evolve. Whether I sell 10, 10,000 or 100,000 albums is really irrelevant to me, that's not why I make music."

Her new album, a jazz-pop hybrid she produced herself, is due to be released in early 2004.

Lee Aaron will perform at the downtown bus terminal parkade Saturday at 7:30 p.m., in a free open-air show as part of JazzFest 2003.

© Medicine Hat News 2003