Meet the Amazing Musicians that have been part of The Azar Lawrence Experience #TALE
Mr. Azar Lawrence (Saxophonist)
Babatunde Lea (Percussions)
Babatunde Lea’s vast experience of nearly forty years as a master percussionist, as well as the spiritual depth and resonance he brings to everything he does, has made him one of the most esteemed musicians of the past half century. He joined a band called Juju, which relocated to Richmond, Virginia in the early 1970s. Among the artists with whom he played were Stan Getz, Joe Henderson, McCoy Tyner, Randy Weston, Van Morrison, and Oscar Brown, Jr.. His first album as leader, Levels of Consciousness was released in 1979. He recorded with a band called Phenomena, which grew out of the Loft Jazz Association. In 2010, Babatunde moved to Pennsylvania to teach at Gettysburg College.
Benito Gonzalez (Piano)
After almost seven years of touring with Kenny Garrett, Benito has added numerous festivals and international jazz club dates to his credit. He has also shared the stage with Curtis Fuller, Pharaoh Sanders, Bobby Hutcherson, Christian McBride, Ignacio Berroa, Roy Hargrove, Rene McLean, Steve Turre,Delfeayo Marsalis,Hamiet Bluiett, Antonio Sanchez, T.K. Blue, Nicholas Payton, Jackie McLean, and a returning member of The Azar Lawrence Experience. Benito also took home first prize at the Great American Jazz Piano Competition.
Brandon Lewis (Drummer)
Drummer Brandon Lee Lewis has performed internationally with artists such as Gil Coggins, Harry Whitaker, Frank Wess, George Mraz, Kenny Garrett, Myron Walden, Azar Lawrence, Lezlie Harrison, Saul Rubin, Avi Rothbard, Anthony Wonsey, David Weiss, Billy Harper, Reggie Workman and Charles Tolliver, among others. He’s also performed on Award-Winning Broadway productions The Color Purple and Memphis and the feature film American Gangster.
Brian Swartz (Trumpet)
Trumpeter Brian Swartz has appeared on multiple Grammy nominated and winning recordings with artists including The Dixie Chicks, John Beasley’s Monk’estra , and Kim Richmond’s Concert Jazz Orchestra. He has also performed or recorded with Michael Bublé, Saint Motel, Patti Labelle, Natalie Cole, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, The Luckman Jazz Orchestra, Jose Rizo’s Jazz on the Latin Side All Stars and many more.
Essiet Essiet (Bass)
In the 1990s, the bassist began what has proven to be a significant freelance career. He has performed and recorded with such notables as Benny Golson, Freddie Hubbard, Bobby Hutcherson, Pat Martino, Kenny Burrell, Jackie McLean, Kenny Barron, Billy Higgins, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Kenny Garrett, Kurt Elling, and Geri Allen. In his festival performance, Essiet leads his own group, IBO, a Nigerian jazz project that mixes jazz harmonies with West African rhythms.
Frank Martin (Piano)
During those early years connecting for lessons with jazz pianist Don Burke exposed him to artists such as Miles Davis, Bill Evans, Toots Thielemans, and Dave Brubeck, which began a lifelong love for jazz. Frank is a keyboard player, arranger, composer, conductor, session musician, band leader, and teacher. His list of recording credits include Narada Michael Walden, Whitney Houston, Herbie Hancock, Al Jarreau, Regina Bell, Tevin Campbell, and Chris Isaak. He joined Local 510 in the 1970s and is now a Local 6 life member.
Freddie Hendrix (Trumpet)
Over the past two decades, Freddie Hendrix has become one of the most in demand trumpeters in Jazz, and beyond. Also an accomplished composer, arranger and educator, the Teaneck, New Jersey native’s skill and versatility has resulted in him working with a wide array of performers that range from the Count Basie Orchestra and The Christian McBride Big Band, to Aretha Franklin, Stevie Wonder and Alicia Keys.
Henry Franklin (Bass)
In 1968, after a year-long tour of the East Coast playing with Willie Bobo and working gigs on his days off with Archie Shepp, Lamont Johnson, Beaver Harris and Roswell Rudd, Hugh Masekela heard Henry play and made him an offer. Three and a half years later the two would collaborate on Grazing in the Grass. He continued touring over the next few years, working internationally with singer O.C. Smith, The Three Sounds, Freddie Hubbard and Count Basie. Franklin collected another gold record with Stevie Wonder on Journey Through The Secret Life of Plants. Franklin appears on more than 100 albums, with many of them produced under his leadership, and has also published a method book for all bass players entitled, Bassically Yours.
Mahesh Balasooriya (Piano)
Mahesh Balasooriya is an accomplished and very seasoned pianist. He performed at the White House with Arturo Sandoval in 2014. He also has played with Natalie Cole, Stanley Clarke, Ravi Coltrane, Wayne Shorter, just to name a few and is the music director for Engelbert Humperdinck. Mahesh comes from a great tradition of amazing musicians from the Greater Los Angeles area and the University of Southern California.
Masumi Yamamoto (Piano)
Pop Star Masumi was born in Niigata, Japan. She started piano lessons in YAMAHA Music School starting at age 4. Her first single “Slow Down”, which had Japanese and English lyrics, went to #4 on the Hip-Hop, R&B chart in Billboard Magazine. She has composed film score music and programmed music for some TV Shows, such as America’s Got Talent, The Little Big Shot and many more. She plays the piano in her own trio and Trevor Lawrence’s Quartet. She went on a tour with them to the East Coast in 2015.
Michael Bowie (Bass)
Michael Bowie indeed has worked with some of the giants in jazz and R&B. The list of artists includes Patti Labelle, James Ingram, Jeff Majors, Abbey Lincoln, Angie Stone, and Isaac Hayes. He has shared his talents in the recording studio and on the stage with Sarah Vaughan, Joe Williams, Abbey Lincoln, Manhattan Transfer, The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts Opera House Orchestra, Della Reece, Michel Camilo and Ricky Skaggs. He has appeared on countless television shows such as Black Entertainment Television, Austin City Limits, Charlie Rose, Radio One, as well as major venues and festivals such as Carnegie Hall, the Newport Jazz Festival, Playboy Jazz Festival, DC Jazz Festival, Montreux Jazz Festival, and most other major festivals worldwide.
Michael Hunter (Trumpet)
Michael Hunter is an accomplished Trumpet player who has recorded with many artists, such as Lenny Kravitz, James Brown, Teena Marie and Rick James. He has toured with Boz Scaggs, Lenny Kravitz, Al McKay & The LA All-Stars and many more.
Munyungo Jackson (Percussions)
Despite his youthful appearance, Munyungo is no newcomer: in his over thirty years of playing, he has developed an awesome versatility & became a well-respected & much requested session, concert & tour player. He has performed with Miles Davis, Stevie Wonder, Sting, Kenny Loggins, Herbie Hancock, Dianne Reeves, the Zawinul Syndicate, George Howard, Ronnie Laws, The Temptations, Four Tops, The Supremes, Bennie Maupin, Bill Summers, Marcus Miller, & dozens of others, including numerous ethnic music & dance troupes.
Neil Clark (Percussions)
Neil Clarke has had performing, touring and recording relationships with many notable artists over the years. He has had ongoing collaborations with Randy Weston and fellow African Rhythms sideman Alex Blake, Benny Powell. Neil has enjoyed long-standing relationships with such notable artists as Harry Belafonte, Onaje Allen Gumbs, Dianne Reeves, David Sanborn, Miriam Makeba, Letta Mbulu, Carlos Garnet, Paul Winter, the Spirit Ensemble, Tulivu Donna Cumberbatch, the late Noel Pointer, the late Arthur Prysock, the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, the International African American Ballet, and many others.
Roy McCurdy (Drums)
Before joining Cannonball Adderley’s Quintet in 1965, Roy had played with Chuck and Gap Mangione in the Jazz Brothers , as well as with Bobby Timmons, Betty Carter and Sonny Rollins , appearing on the classic 1963 album Sonny Meets Hawk! He has also played and/or recorded with Count Basie, Wes Montgomery, Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, Carmen McRae, Joe Williams, Herbie Hancock, Oscar Peterson, Bud Powell, Art Pepper, and the jazz rock group Blood, Sweat and Tears.
Steve Turre (Trombone)
Steve Turre’s career picked up momentum when Ray Charles hired him to go on tour. A year later Turre’s mentor Woody Shaw brought him into Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers. After his tenure with Blakey, Turre went on to work with a diverse list of musicians from the jazz, Latin, and pop worlds, including Dizzy Gillespie, McCoy Tyner, J.J. Johnson, Herbie Hancock, Lester Bowie, Tito Puente, Mongo Santamaria, Van Morrison, Pharoah Sanders, Horace Silver, Max Roach, and Rahsaan Roland Kirk. The latter introduced hum to the seashell as an instrument. Soon after that, while touring in Mexico City with Woody Shaw, Turre’s relatives informed him that his ancestors similarly played the shells. Since then, Turre has incorporated seashells into his diverse musical style. In addition to performing as a member of the Saturday Night Live Band since 1984
Tateng Katindig (Piano)
Kateng has performed with some of the world’s jazz players like Lou Rawls, Richie Cole, Carl Saunders, Teddy Edwards Bill Henderson, Earl Palmer, Sam Most, Eric Marienthal, Kevyn Lettau, Hubert Laws, Debra Laws, Eloise Laws, Alphonse Mouzon. He was also the musical director for Martin Nievera, Ogie Alcasid, Becca Godinez and Dessa’s Hollywood Bowl performance with the Apl de Ap Foundation which was a great success.
Theo Crocker (Trumpet)
In 2013 Croker returned to the United States after a seven-year stay in Shanghai, China, where he broadened his concept of jazz to encompass other complementary genres such as salsa, fusion-rock, R&B, hip hop and blues. While in Shanghai, he held a five-month residency at Shanghai’s House of Blues. Soon after that he was hired as the house band for Asia Uncut Star Network, a late-night television show modeled on the Tonight Show where Theo served as music director, bandleader .
Tony Austin (Drums)
Drummer, Composer and Producer Tony Austin is one of the most versatile and sought-after artists in the United States. He is known for combining the artistry of drumming with his vast knowledge of sound recording and music production to make him a preferential component in numerous musical projects. Carlos Santana, India Arie, Erykah Badu and Roy Hargrove count themselves among the many who have hired him for his technical and physical gifts. He has also performed, recorded and collaborated with a wealth of talented artists including Gwen Stefani, Charles Lloyd, Billy Childs, Willow Smith, Jon Brion,Kamasi Washington, Daniel Bedingfield, Salvador Santana, Solomon Burke, John Avila (Oingo Boingo), and Meyer Hawthorne.
Trevor Ware (Bass)
Trevor Ware is well recognized as one of the most supportive jazz bassists in Los Angeles. His style focuses not only on producing a supportive bass tone with impeccable intonation, but also features long, creative, well developed bass lines. Developing his love for music at The World Stage Performance Gallery. After being offered his first professional gig by legendary pianist and composer Horace Tapscott & New York saxophonist Sonny Fortune, Ware developed as sense of musical adventure playing in Tapscott’s quartet and Pan Afrikan People’s Arkestra Having appeared on over 40 recordings, Ware’s current musical associations include Kenny Burrell, Molly Ringwald, Jeff Goldblum & The Count Basie Orchestra.
Windy Barnes Farrell (Vocals)
WINDYS’ luxurious vocals move effortlessly from Jazz to Pop, to R&B and Gospel. It’s easy to see why she is one of the most sought after singers around the globe. WINDY has been featured extensively on tour with the highest grossing balladeer in the world, JULIO IGLESIAS. She has traveled the world many times over with one of the most imitated, respected and endearing singer/songwriter/musician of the 21st century, STEVIE WONDER. She has also performed with Michael Bolton. It stands to reason why the unique vocal styling’s of WINDY BARNES is recognized all over the world.