Lee Shaw was born in Ada, Oklahoma. She began studying piano at the age of five. After graduating from high school, she attended the Oklahoma College for Women where she earned her Bachelor of Music in Piano. She earned her Master’s degree in piano at the American Conservatory of Music in Chicago. She also studied privately with concert pianist, Jesus Maria Sanroma in Puerto Rico. When she began playing piano in nightclubs in Chicago, she was sharing bills with the likes of Anita O’Day, Dinah Washington and Sarah Vaughan. It was the 1950s, and fresh out of the conservatory, she drew mostly on her classical background, her encyclopedic knowledge of popular songs and her uncanny ability to play in any key.
On the job training and study with the great Oscar Peterson turned Shaw into the first-rate jazz pianist she later became. She has had her own trio for more than 40 years, during which time she has performed in clubs, concerts and festivals in the United States, Canada and Europe.
Shaw, who has lived in the Albany region for the last three decades, has been a guest on Marian McPartland’s NPR program “Piano Jazz” and appears frequently on WAMC’s Roundtable. She was inducted into the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame in 1993. She is also an inductee of the Alumni Hall of Fame from the college from which she graduated.
The Lee Shaw Trio appeared at the Kennedy Center’s Mary Lou Williams Festival in 1999 and will be appearing this coming June at the Saratoga Jazz Festival. In 2002, she was given an Honorary Doctorate by the College of Saint Rose.