Azar Lawrence is a saxophonist, composer, and bandleader based in Los Angeles whose big, open tone is at once exploratory and soulful.
He was a young music prodigy, lovingly tutored by his mother, who taught music and led their church choir. At age 5, he played violin in the Los Angeles Junior Symphony, then viola, but his ears were turned to the saxophone at age 13. Azar spent his teen years immersed in jazz at the home of his best friend, none other than the late Reggie Golson, son of the great composer/arranger/saxophonist, Bennie Golson. From then on it was jazz, jazz, and more jazz.
Azar began his jazz career at the renowned Dorsey High School Jazz Workshop. After high school he played in Horace Tapscott’s Pan Afrikan Arkestra and played weekly with George Cables, Candy Finch, Larry Gales, and Woody Shaw in Los Angeles at a local club, L.B. West on 54th St. Before long, he performed with the Ike & Tina Turner band, the Watts 103rd Street Band and War. The 19 year old musical genius – he’d blush at the description – then joined John Coltrane drummer, Elvin Jones, for 3 ½ years.
Azar went on to record/write for luminaries such as Freddie Hubbard, McCoy Tyner, Roberta Flack, and Phyllis Hyman. His sensational collaborations of the period included writing and performing on Earth Wind & Fire’s highly acclaimed platinum album, Powerlight, and on Marvin Gaye’s Grammy award-winning, Hear My Dear.
In the early 2000s, Azar surged back onto the jazz scene and continues to roar, electrifying audiences with outstanding original compositions inspired by his intense spiritual feelings, as well as songs from the Coltrane songbook: The Legacy and Music of John Coltrane, 2007, Speak The Word Revelations, 2008, Prayer For My Ancestors, 2009, Mystic Journey, 2010, The Seeker, Live At The Jazz Standard, 2014, which featured Azar’s own “Lost Tribes of Lemuria,” and McCoy Tyner’s signature, “Walk Spirit, Talk Spirit.”
Azar’s 2018 album, Elementals, hit #2 on the Jazz Weekly charts. Chris May wrote: “Azar Lawrence sounds more like John Coltrane than John Coltrane ever did. Well, almost…. but it has not been a cynical pose designed to maximize Lawrence’s commercial appeal.” (All About Jazz, April 18, 2018.) Concord reissued the highly acclaimed Bridge Into The New Age in November of 2017.
His music has been sampled by Madlib, Cypress Hill, and Joey Badass.