Azar Lawrence is fulfilling his musical quest with a most impressive live recording!
Brent Black / www.criticaljazz.com
Sunnyside Records will drop an incredible live set recorded at the Jazz Standard. This all star collective features saxophonist Azar Lawrence, trumpet great Nicholas Payton, and a critically acclaimed rhythm section of Benito Gonzalez on piano, Essiet Okon Essiet on bass and the mighty Jeff "Tain" Watts on drums. The Seeker pays homage to those harmonic rebels that have forged their own path and this created and elevated the form and function of the improvisational music we have come to know as jazz.
For the uninitiated, Lawrence has been cutting his own lyrical trail for the last four decades and has played with such luminaries as Freddie Hubbard and Earth Wind & Fire. The original compositions from Lawrence are diverse and visionary in their lyrical thought. Nicholas Payton shares the front line with Lawrence due largely in part to his exceptional conceptual feeling of just where Lawrence was heading on this most unique journey. Picking a highlight or two would be equivalent to asking a parent to pick their favorite child but I'll give it a whirl with "Rain Ballad" and "Spirit Night" topping the list. Both compositions are compelling lush ballad oriented tunes with a zen like serenity move slowly beneath the surface. Both tunes allow for dynamic interplay within the rhythm section with Essiet's bowed bass and Watts finesse on "Rain Ballad" while Gonzalez shines on "Spirit Night." The band finds their groove on the Gonzalez tune "One More Time" with a spirited exchange between Lawrence, Payton and of course Gonzalez.
Azar Lawrence may be a searching artist, the good artists are. The search for the listener can continue with one of the better live sets you will hear. Virtually flawless on all levels.
Tracks: Gandhi, Lost Tribes of Lemuria, The Seeker, One More Time, Rain Ballads, Spirit Night, Venus Rising.