Speak The Word
Azar Lawrence’s musical history goes way back spanning all matters of the totality of sound, and the rhythms that come forth. When it comes to the gift of music the creator endowed upon humanity, Azar’s appreciation for the celestial healing force that is music led him to play with performers of diverse genres.
Early in his career he displayed an eclectic approach to music expanding his range with notables such as Miles, the outcome being Dark Magus, Live at Carnegie Hall; and Marvin Gaye which led to Grammy winner, Hear My Dear.
Yet nearer to the Most High to thee, Azar Lawrence is a Jazz Man. He credits his first music teacher, the late Ima Jeane Lawrence, his mother, and ALWAYS Elvin & McCoy for musical wisdoms that shape his foundation. Barely out of his teens and deeply thrust into another historical period of American music, he was blessed to have been formed and touched by many musical giants.
Speak the Word, a new beginning for Azar, is a Revelation of much more that will come forth. The Azar Lawrence Quartet comprised of West Coast jazz vets has played together for the last several years.
Piano virtuoso Nate Morgan’s musical understanding has given him an appreciation for greats traversing from Verdi to Monk, and always unsung jazz Theocrat Horace Tapscott. Nate performed with Gary Bartz and Ronnie Laws back in the day and funked out long enough with Rufus & Chaka Kahn to earn a Grammy. Nate’s Journey to Negrita, focuses on various modal conduits that tantalizes the ivories with fingers of fluidity which over the decades have built upon the sheer piano delight that is Nate Morgan.
Bassist Trevor Ware like Nate, is a product of Los Angeles’ World Stage where the late Billy Higgins & Tapscott still hold sway in the mission. Trevor a focused jazz bassist seriously plucks the strings and when it syncs his stoic face gives way to a quiet smile; it says that he’s pleased. Trevor has recorded with Sweet Baby J'ai, Eldad Tarmu, Phil Ranelin, Dwight Trible, Derf Reklaw, Noland Shaheed, Build An Ark, and many more.
Fritz Wise holds down the groove while adding subtle nuances of melody from the drums. He keeps the beats flying with stellar credentials. He has performed with giants such as Arthur Blythe, Kenny Burrell, George Cables, Buddy Collette, Teddy Edwards, Curtis Fuller, John Hicks, "Slide" Hampton, Harold Land, Horace Silver, Patrice Rushen, David "Fathead" Newman, Hampton Hawes, among others.
Azar composed and arranged Speak The Word along with Nate Morgan, Trevor Ware and Fritz Wise. A glance at Azar's discography shows a history of Azar collaborating with artist from diverse music genres.
He wanted to add the sound of a Flamenco artist he met and played with in Los Angeles, Carlos "Cristobal" Vazquez known as Cristobal Osorio around the world and Spain where he was born and lives.
Cristobal wrote the dance song on Speak The Word, Vestida de Solea. Azar was not disappointed, Cristobal is a prolific writer and composer.
New and exciting happenings are on the horizon for this sax phoneme who burst on the jazz stage in a major way in his late teens.
After decades of flying under the radar, this sax legend whose first major work opportunity was with the legendary McCoy Tyner in which they along with other jazz stalwarts created magic together on Sama Lucaya, Enlightenment and other productions that are renowned to this day is "back."
Well he never left. At a very young age while working for years with Elvin Jones he headed up Fantasy/Prestidge Records. And after his years as part of the McCoy Tyner Quartet he went on to work for Capitol Records as a songwriter. Next he become an Executive Assitant for Stan Neufeld at Orion Pictures for Hollywood Squares and Outside Productions.
Now Azar is performing with his own group and of course with other heavyweight Jazz, R & B, and Popular music artist.
Native Los Angeleno Azar Lawrence grew up during an era of Jazz history that will forever transcend time. Whether Coltranesque or Milestone, having composed, produced, and playing with Jazz legends, such as McCoy Tyner for over 5 years, and Elvin Jones for several years, Azar went to Jazz Master’s School at an early age. Azar was honored in his late teens to be thrust upon the jazz scene in a major way, producing and performing for decades with musicians on the cusp of the vanguard, whether it was the late great Frank Zappa or wailing on the sax in a rap video with Busta Rhymes. His performance with Miles Davis at Carnegie Hall where Dark Magus was recorded live is hailed to this day and noted in Mile’s autobiography.
Azar Lawrence led a musical childhood and began playing drums at the age of three and moved on to violin and piano at the age of five, under the direction of his mother Ima Lawrence. Ima, a gifted musician and teacher from whom Azar received his acute flair for all things music has shaped many successful musicians. Azar began playing with the USC JR Orchestra at the age of five. He played violin until the age of eight, and performed vocals accompanied by his mother during elementary school where she taught sixth grade and music. At age eleven he began hearing a different musical voice. He was an accomplished pianist, violinist and vocalist in his own right at the time. He wanted to take up Viola, but something happened, Lonnie a long time friend of the Lawrence family, who often brought his flute when he visited, came by for a swim, and brought his alto sax Azar was not poolside but he had to see who was playing that cool sound. His father his biggest supporter and fan who had bought all of Azar’s instruments purchased him an alto sax, and Azar began taking instruction from Mr. Schumaker once a week.
In high school Azar played with the Dorsey High Jazz Band, and played a jazz workshop with Herbert Baker, one of the greatest pianist that ever lived and I feel blessed to have been in his presence Azar played everyday with Herbert Baker until a tragic car accident took his teacher and mentor’s life, during his senior year in high school. That event made me reach deeper and I knew I had to carry on what I had learned. Drummer, Reggie Goldstein, introduced Azar to the music, and that’s when he began to get into the creation. Nightly he went to Reggie’s house. Reggie had a room full of records, and he would play them all, over time. Coltrane, Miles, Monk, Shorter. Reggie prepared him.
After high school at the age of 19, Azar played with Candy Finch, Larry Gales, and Woody Shaw at a regular gig at a club on 54th St. in Los Angeles. Soon he would perform with Ike & Tina Turner, Watts 103rd St. Band, and War. He then joined Elvin Jones for two years and after leaving Elvin, he joined McCoy Tyner’s group for five years and then back to Elvin for a year, and in the meantime recorded with Roberta Flack. "Miles Davis used to come and hear me when I played with McCoy Tyner in New York, as well as when I was with Elvin." Miles approached Azar about joining his group, and he wasn't ready to commit cause he wasn't feeling it. Azar’s first performance with Miles was in DC and then they performed in New York at Carnegie Hall where Dark Magus was recorded.
Azar Lawrence’s history has been impressive since the age of five, throughout his musical sojourn he’s played sax alongside names like Woody Shaw, Horace Tapscott, Ron Carter, McCoy Tyner, Elvin Jones, Henry Butler and Buddy Collette.
Azar has been a force since he graduated from high school, releasing three albums of his own before the age of twenty-five, Bridge Into the New Age, People Moving People, and Summer Solstice. During the eighties he wrote and performed for Earth Wind Fire, on their highly acclaimed release Powerlight. He collaborated with Earth Wind & Fire’s leader Maurice White. Azar is known to bring jazz to popular music he can be heard on the late Frank Zappa’s music to playing in Busta Rhyme's video, In The Ghetto. There has been much speculation that Azar disappeared off the jazz scene, quite the contrary, although he wasn't in the limelight, his credits are numerous from early on one being the highly acclaimed, Grammy award winning album, Marvin Gaye’s, Hear My Dear.
Azar’s biggest fan and supporter was Azel Lawrence, his father. He would travel to gigs, he went to see Azar in Detroit when he was playing with McCoy and also to the Houston Astrodome. Azar needed to feel it like the first time when Lonnie played poolside at the house where he grew up. In the eighties and nineties, Azar began searching for a sound of his own, and began to write songs even more seriously than when preparing for his first three projects while recording for Fantasy records. He began working with Chuck Jackson who is known in part for his role as producer for all of Natalie Coles hit recordings. They co wrote twenty songs all of which were placed on projects such as Stanley Turentine’s, Coming Home.
He formed the band, Chameleon, which recorded for Electra Records. Patrice Banks, Chocolate, of Grande Central Station was a member of that team. Currently, Azar is in residence at The World Stage, also known as the house of Billy Higgins who he recorded and performed many times with the great until his death. He is a member of The World Stage Pan Afrikan Peoples Arkestra, which was under the direction of the great Horace Tapscott until his death in the late nineties. Being successful at such a young age can have drawbacks.
His musical career was meteoric to say the least. He had performed on six continents before the age of 21. You could say my life was fast and furious I had forgotten what I was taught, by my great teachers, my mother being the first. Music is your voice, keep it pure, share your gift not for the fame or fortune, but for the creator, it was given to you by him at no cost. If you make a living from your gift, it’s just gravy. If hadn't run out of it, (manna) I would have died.
Playing for his mind, body and soul, and for healing of the self, as well as that of others, Azar is taking his sound into new directions, to a celestial plane these days. To lift one’s self, explains Azar, all aspects of his being, his spirit, has to be clear and focused. While Azar was discovering himself, his journey led him to seriously study Coltrane. He needed a mystical connection to the saxophone. Coltrane takes one to another realm and he needed healing.
He had been out of balance and in a musical wilderness, commercially successful, but spiritually and physically killing himself in the process. I’m humbled and blessed, to be alive to carry out what I've learned from my contemporaries, but mostly my elders. Greats like Higgins, and Tapscott, and Ima who did not do it for the fame and fortune, but because of the music voice that summons us.