Feb 13, 2022
Saxophonist Azar Lawrence has been seen as someone who can, as they say, cover both sides of the street. Lawrence has performed with numerous jazz titans that include pianists Horace Tapscott and McCoy Tyner; trumpeters Miles Davis, Freddie Hubbard, and Woody Shaw; percussionist James Mtume; and drummers Elvin Jones and Billy Higgins.
However, the Los Angeles-born Lawrence, has never been confined by conventional genre categories. His instrumental and songwriting work with iconic soul singers, like Roberta Flack, Marvin Gaye, and Phyllis Hyman; and Rock & Roll Hall of Famers Earth, Wind & Fire is just as indelible.
So it will not surprise those who listen to him that his latest release, New Sky, is full of positive sounds and vibrations that can’t really be considered the work of a Coltrane disciple or an R&B shouter. The optimistic musical soundtrack – co-produced by him, guitarist James Saez and Tracy Hannah, looks forward with new Lawrence compositions, and backwards to revisit two of his compositions of the Seventies. Joining Lawrence on New Sky is a cast of musicians old and new that consists of pianists and keyboardists John Beasley and Nduduzo Makhathini; bassist Sekou Bunch; drummer Tony Austin; percussionist Munyungo Jackson; singers Calesha "Bre-Z" Murray, Oren Waters, and Lynne Fiddmont; harpist Destiny Muhammad; and guitarists Saez, Greg Poree and Gregory 'GMOE' Moore.
Podcast 879 is my conversation with Azar and his producer Tracy Hannah as we discuss the upbeat nature of the new album, and why Azar feels the new music can’t be put into any particular class or genre. He also speaks touchingly about his late friend Mtume, who we lost just a month ago. Musical selections from New Sky include “Ain’t No Doubt” and “Point of Love.”