Picking up from where Coltrane left off, jazz saxophonist Azar Lawrence reveals how he’s kept spiritual jazz alive for the past 40 years during an exclusive performance and interview at the Grammy Museum in Los Angeles.
Prestige70 Podcast: Azar Lawrence
Photo by; Chuck Koton
"Though he has an impressive side person CV (Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Freddie Hubbard, McCoy Tyner, not to mention a bucketful of R&B dates), saxophonist Azar Lawrence also has records as a leader going back to 1974’s spiritual jazz classic Bridge Into the New Age. Wielding both tenor and soprano, Lawrence brings his wide range of experiences together on New Sky."
"Some time after John Coltrane’s death his pianist, McCoy Tyner, wanted another saxophonist to play with, Azar Lawrence was the man Tyner picked, and his powerful new album reminds us why you’ll be returning to this excellent disc [Elementals] as often as saxophonists return to John Coltrane.” Chris Pearson, The Sunday Times (London) April 20, 2018."
"His multi-hued palette is by turns funky, melodic, spiced with Brazilian and Afro-Caribbean touches, and is consistently uplifting throughout.” — Glide Magazine
"We again hear the Coltrane-like strains, amplified by the presence of Tyner disciple, the South African-born pianist Nduduzo Makhathina, and Alice Coltrane-inspired harp from Destiny Muhammad.” — Glide Magazine...
"The musical and the metaphysical have always converged in the work of tenor and soprano saxophonist Azar Lawrence…” — WBGO
“...he has often been linked to the legacy of their common touchstone, John Coltrane — a linkage that has at least as much to do with cosmic intention as it does with Lawrence's actual sound.” — WBGO
"If Santana and Earth, Wind and Fire honeymooned overseas and had a baby…" - Carol Weber
“Peace And Harmony” — the jazz-funk sublime — glows and grows on percolating, sinewy bass, samba-inflected cue-and-response keys, and a boss percussive bump-and-grind, as Lawrence placates, glosses over, and polishes an already perfect adult contemporary instrumental with rising, slightly staggered meaty notes. " - Carol Weber
The museum will also release archived programs by such jazz notables as Dee Dee Bridgewater, Azar Lawrence, Christian McBride, Preservation Hall Jazz Band, and Cassandra Wilson. It will also have new programs on April 8 with jazz pianist and composer Emmet Cohen and jazz guitarist Julian Lage.
“Azar Lawrence sounds more like John Coltrane than John Coltrane ever did. Well, almost. Mid-period Coltrane that is, post-Atlantic Records and the sheets of sound, when Coltrane started to record for Impulse with producer Bob Thiele. The closeness of the resemblance is longstanding and uncanny, but it has not been a cynical pose designed to maximize Lawrence's commercial appeal.”
“Lawrence has sounded like Coltrane ever since he started recording, including during his spells with ex-Coltrane associates McCoy Tyner, Elvin Jones, and Miles Davis in the 1970s. Each of these musicians also thought Lawrence was a ringer for Coltrane, in a totally good way.” by Chris May.
“ Mr. Lawrence sounded inspired at times by the Coltrane of 1961 and 1962: the fast, athletic, babbling patterns of “Chasin’ the Trane” and the moral-weight slowness of “Ballads.” He got into higher registers and freer shapes — tantalizingly so, sometimes. He seems in possession of a great, almost ecstatic power, but he cares about songs, and their shape and melody always pulled him back to earth. He controlled several mixtures of things that could seem like opposites: easy, melodic swing and bottom-line seriousness; short-line form and long-line expressiveness. All this resulted in controlled energy that grew bigger than the group itself. It works well in a club, but this is a band you could imagine on bigger stages. ” By Ben Ratliff
The highly-respected musician played with many of jazz’s biggest names, such as Elvin Jones, McCoy Tyner, and Miles Davis, as well as record solo discs for the legendary Prestige imprint.
“Sometime after John Coltrane’s death his pianist, McCoy Tyner, wanted another saxophonist to play with. Azar Lawrence was the man Tyner picked, and his powerful new album reminds us why “You’ll be returning to this excellent disc as often as saxophonists return to John Coltrane.” (Highnote) by Chris Pearson
"The group is really in their element with this brawny improvisation that is rooted in tradition, yet soaring to break free. This was a very good album and continues a strong renaissance for Azar Lawrence, who has been making a habit of releasing one strong modern jazz LP a year for the past ten years with no sign of letting up." by Tim Niland (Read More)
“The Seeker hits like a sledgehammer from the opening track, “Gandhi.” Lawrence writes elemental declamatory anthems that serve as launchpads. Their titles convey his understanding of music as a spiritual quest: “Spirit Night,” “The Seeker,” “Venus Rising.” For all his fervor, there is logic and clarity in his onslaught of ideas. When he reenters for a second solo, like on “Gandhi,” he can jolt you out of your chair. “ By Thomas Conrad
Azar Lawrence, The Seeker (Sunnyside)
The Seeker is a jaw-dropping joy: great musicians, great compositions, and flavor that pays homage to John Coltrane while carving its own driving path. Azar Lawrence flashes soul-filled, spiritual tenor and soprano chops with a brand of fire that’s riveting and timeless. For those not familiar with Lawrence, get hip now. Here’s a saxophonist who has played and recorded with everyone from Horace Tapscott and Elvin Jones to McCoy Tyner and Miles Davis. BY FRANK ALKYER
“He was one of the most heralded tenor saxophonists of the early ‘70s, a young Coltrane acolyte who played in the bands of Coltrane alumni McCoy Tyner and Elvin Jones, as well as with the likes of Miles Davis, Freddie Hubbard, and Woody Shaw.” By Joel Roberts
The leader storms back in with fiery runs that hint at John Coltrane's ecstatic playing, while still maintaining his own musical identity. Equally strong is "Lost Tribes of Lemuria" which has the full band stating the strong theme before Lawrence yields the floor for some fine trumpet and piano playing. Posted by Tim Niland