Azar Lawrence grew up during an era of prolificacy and transcendence in Jazz music that, to this day, has stood the test of time. While still very young, Azar began playing with many jazz legends and, at just seventeen, he played his first professional gigs abroad with Clark Terry and Muddy Waters. He has composed, produced and performed with acclaimed jazz luminary McCoy Tyner for over five years and with Elvin Jones for many years.
Lawrence’s first music lessons were given to him by his mother, educator and classical pianist Ima Jean Lawrence. In high school, Azar played with the Dorsey High School Jazz Workshop where he became friends and shared many musical ideas with pianist and mentor, Herbert Baker. Also while in high school, Azar performed with the legendary Horace Tapscott Arkestra where he met and became close friends with Reggie Golson, the late son of jazz icon,Benny Golson. Reggie and the Golson family became very instrumental in Azar’s musical journey in Jazz.
After high school, at the age of 19, Azar played with George Cables, Candy Finch, Larry Gales, and Woody Shaw at a regular gig at a Los Angeles club on 54th St. A self-proclaimed funkateer, the versatile Lawrence would perform with Ike & Tina Turner, the Watts 103rd St. Band, and War. Azar had a life-changing moment when, at the age of 20, he was introduced to Elvin Jones (at the ‘Lighthouse’) by his friend and musical guide, Reggie Golson. Within a week of meeting Elvin, Azar would leave Los Angeles for New York to become a member of Jones’ band, “Jazz Machine.”
After a few years with Jones, he joined McCoy Tyner’s group for five years. These priceless years with two-thirds of the classic John Coltrane Quartet made an indelible mark on Lawrence’s life and music, imbuing him with a spirituality that would last a life time. During this time, Miles Davis would often hear Azar when he was playing in New York City with Tyner and Jones. One night, Miles approached Azar about joining his group and no one refused Miles. Azar’s first concert with Davis was in Washington D.C. and, soon after, they performed and recorded Dark Magus(1974), live at New York’s Carnegie Hall.
Like his contemporaries Herbie Hancock and Charles Lloyd, Lawrence later forayed into pop music. He worked with Earth, Wind & Fire, Frank Zappa and Busta Rhymes and during the eighties, collaborated with Maurice White, writing and performing for Earth Wind Fire on their highly acclaimed release, Powerlight. His credits are numerous from this tme, including the Grammy award winning Marvin Gaye album, Hear My Dear.
From an early age, Azar Lawrence has been a powerful musical force, releasing several albums of his own before the age of twenty-five: Bridge Into the New Age, People Moving People,Summer Solstice, Shadow Dancing and People Moving. In recent years, Lawrence has released Legacy and Music of John Coltrane, Speak The Word, Prayer For My Ancestors, Mystic Journey (2010), which received several Best of 2010s and, most recently, The Seeker (Sunnyside Records,2014), his co-production with Seth Abramson, Grammy winner and Artistic Director for the Jazz Standard, recorded live at the Jazz Standard in New York. This burning “live” CD made it on to the 2014 ballot for Grammy nomination consideration. Azar can also be heard as a sideman on The Cookers: Cast The First Stone (2011), and The Headhunters’ Platinum (2011).
Since the early 2000’s, this consummate artist has returned full force to his post-Bop Jazz roots. Lawrence’s distinctive sound embodies a deep spirituality which can be heard on Tyner’s “Walk Spirit, Talk Spirit”, and on his own numerous recordings on Prestige and other top jazz labels.
These days, hitting hard “live” and in the studio, Azar has written several compositions for his soon to be released CD, Elementals, which promises to be another red hot recording by the ever burning saxist guru!
Never missing a beat, Azar Lawrence’s shows sparkle with virtuosity, vivid ideas and palpable textures. To the discerning listener, Lawrence’s depth can only be attributed to one who has ‘been there’. And ‘there’ he most definitely was.