Aug 30, 2019
Living in the Northeast US, it is easy to forget that there is a big, wonderful world of jazz musicians outside the orbit of New York, Boston and the DC area. Prime example – drummer/composer Jay Lawrence, a resident of Utah who put out a CD recently that went under my radar. Thankfully, Sonic Paragon has come to the top of a large pile of releases, and the rewards are many.
Begin with a murders’ row of jazz greats backing Jay: bassist John Patitucci, pianist Renee Rosnes, saxophonist Harry Allen and three – count ‘em three – rotating guitar slingers in Romero Lubambo, Anthony Wilson and Yotam Silberstein. Trumpeter Terell Stafford guests on four tracks as well. Most of the tracks are originals, many by Lawrence. All have a relaxed, breezy feel, but that can be deceptive – there are interesting harmonization and chords, plus successful takes on various musical styles. Add together some interesting covers to rework – songbook classics like “What’ll I Do” and “Maria” and classic rock in Jimi Hendrix’s “Crosstown Traffic” – and there is much to like here.
Take “Tchoupitoulas”, a tribute to New Orleans Second Lines. First come that bouncing, percussive beat from Lawrence, supported by Silberstein’s guitar. Then there is the drive of Allen and Stafford, competing with handclaps for attention as they lock in together and then go their own ways to solo. All in all, a great number.
Born and raised in the shadows of the performance spaces of Reno and Lake Tahoe, and a former Las Vegas resident, Lawrence has been working as a musician since the age of 15. From those casino shows backing pop, rock and country acts to film scores, Broadway show orchestra pits and all sorts of jazz styles, Jay has made a life in music.
Podcast 698 is my conversation with Jay, as we discuss the making of Sonic Paragon, the jazz scene in Utah, and his interest in music education. The Drummer’s Workbook, his book of instruction, is available at his website. Musical selections include “Tchoupitoulas”, “Crosstown Traffic” and "From Nadir To Zenith", written to honor his wife’s successful battle with cancer.