Azar Lawrence (HighNote Records)
Azar Lawrence has wielded a mighty sax since releasing his first of 11 CDs as a band leader in 1974. His latest disc, Elementals, is a back-to-roots jazz charmer. It’s not particularly bold, flashy, or funkified, though there are some moments which invite comparisons to Grover Washington, Jr.’s uptempo jazzy style. But — oooh — Lawrence knows how to hit the African, Brazilian, and Latin influences to mesmerize listeners with a cool groove and tight — yet complex and intriguing — solos.
The 65-year-old tenor saxophonist is perhaps best known as a teenage sideman to McCoy Tyner after the great John Coltrane died in 1967. He also has performed with many other jazz greats, including Miles Davis, Freddie Hubbard, Woody Shaw, and Elvin Jones. As a composer, Lawrence also wrote some songs early in his career that Earth, Wind & Fire recorded.
Elementals has something about it that’s endearing; parts of it remind me of one of Ohio’s greatest saxophonists, the late Joe Henderson, of Lima.
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