There’s a reason jazz legends like McCoy Tyner, Benny Golson and Pharoah Sanders have been asking Azar to sit in with their groups lately. Sure, they are close friends and they’ve played together any number of times. They’ve all watched his reemergence onto the jazz scene in the past few years. But they want Azar to join them on stage because he’s at the top of his game, playing with the kind of heart and spirit that comes only from the wisdom of age.
Azar performed with a sixteen piece band for famed Ethiopian jazz musician Mulatu Astatke in February, 2009 at Luckman Fine Arts Complex, Cal. State Los Angeles. When Azar soloed Benny Maupin, whom he played next to literally stood back and grinned widely as to say I'm proud of you son. That is the effect Azar Lawrence has on people who hear him play. Along with Azar for a searing ride" (Don Heckman's, Jazz Times; Los Angeles Times; words) the looks on the faces of his fellow musicians and patrons is often of wonderment and astonishment after as Chuck Koton, AllAboutJazz describes as one of his searing solos".
If the first four months of 2009 are any indication, it will be a far busier year for Azar. On the heals of his last two CDs, Speak the Word on Zarmedia and Prayer for my Ancestors on Furthermore Recordings, he went out to New York and reestablished a few old connections. While there, he jammed with jazz titans Eddie Henderson and Rashied Ali in separate sessions. But the vibe was too strong to be denied.
Azar proposed the idea of making a recording with Eddie Henderson and Rashied Ali to Furthermore and the fledgling label found it impossible to refuse. Azar headed to New York, where he joined his East coast pianist of choice, Benito Gonzalez, and bassist Essiet Essiet. The quintet rehearsed during the day and Azar hit the clubs at night to make more music. He hooked up with alto saxophonist Gerald Hayes, who appeared on Azar’s 1975 album, Summer Solstice. As they played, Azar imagined Gerald on some of the new tunes he and Benito were working on and the quintet grew into a sextet.
The group headed to Bennett Studios in Englewood, New Jersey on April Fool’s Day and recorded the tunes for the upcoming album, Mystic Dreams, scheduled for release in the summer of 2009. Swing maestros Eddie Henderson, Rashied Ali, and Gerald Hayes were musically content. The two members from the Azar Lawrence Quartet, Benito Gonzalez and Essiet Essiet, along with Azar were utterly moved and genuinely taken aback by the outstanding additions to their group. Press Quotes
Not so strangely enough, this music has a wonderful, spiritual, McCoy/Trane-like sound... Azar on his superb, mystical soprano sax... sounds like a long lost gem from an earlier and more spiritual era." --Bruce Lee Gallanter, Downtown Music Gallery, January 2009.
Azar's mighty talents on tenor and soprano sax!... the tunes have a bold, spiritual kind of quality -- one that makes the set feel like some lost treasure from the Nimbus or Strata East labels from years back." --Dusty Groove America, January 2009.
With significant airplay in New York, Chicago, Atlanta, San Francisco, Los Angeles and international markets. Azar's new and expanded fan base are primed and ready for his exhilarating performances.
Believing that music is a spiritual journey Azar endeavors to create passionate soulful sound. When he whips out his soprano sax often it can get mystical psychedelic, a definite musical experience to have. A commonality throughout reviews of the music of Azar Lawrence is that it is spiritual. Azar's musical statement is that Jazz is Spiritual! Tour Schedule
Thurs., May 28, 2009 Benito Gonzalez featuring Azar Lawrence - Benito Gonzalez, p; Azar Lawrence, t, s, sax; Essiet Essiet, b; Darrel Green, d-Puppets Jazz Bar, 481 5th Ave, near 11th Street Park Slope, Brooklyn, NY
Tues., Jun. 2, 2009 - Billy Higgins Legacy Band featuring, Azar Lawrence, Henry The Skipper" Franklin and Myron Cohen - Healdsburg Jazz Festival/Palette Art Cafe, 235 Healdsburg Ave, Healdsburg, Ca, 8p
Sat., Jun. 13, 2009 - Azar Lawrence, Eddie Henderson, Airto, Mike Clark, Mike Stern, Killah Priest, et. al. will celebrate Miles Davis at:- Harmony Festival, Sonoma County Fairgrounds, 1350 Bennett Valley Rd, Santa Rosa, Ca,
Fri., Jun. 19 - Sat., Jun. 20, 2009 - Azar Lawrence with Benito Gonzalez - Bohemian Caverns, 2001 Eleventh Street N.W. Washington, D.C., 9p to 1a
Sun., Jul. 19, 2009 - Azar Lawrence Quartet “Legacy and Music of John Coltrane", Azar Lawrence, ten, sop sax; Benito Gonzalez, p; Essiet Essiet, b; Billy Hart, d - 18th Annual Greater Hartford Festival of Jazz, Bushnell Park, 1 Jewell St, Hartford, Ct.
Mon., Nov. 9* - Sat., Nov. 14, 2009 - Azar Lawrence Ensemble** - Azar Lawrence, t, s, sax; Benito Gonzalez, p; Essiet Essiet, b; Billy Hart, d 11:30 p - Dizzy's Club Coca Cola, 5th floor, Frederick P. Rose Hall, home of Jazz at Lincoln Center, on Broadway at 60th Street, New York City 9p, ** Special guest to be announced.