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Azar Lawrence - Speak The Word
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Azar Lawrence - Speak The Word PDF Print E-mail

The comeback recording of Azar Lawrence in 2008, after many years away from the recording studio, bears mixed results. Playing the soprano saxophone in the main and a little tenor, Lawrence and his West Coast quartet play some of the vibrant modal jazz in which he staked his claim in the McCoy Tyner ensemble of the 1970s, remaining as a premier post-John Coltrane performer. There are commercial concessions and a Latin element that should not be totally unexpected for those who remember his previous efforts 30 years prior, making the recording as a whole uneven and in a way inconsistent. While his personal sound is fairly enjoyable, pushing the limits of his horn only slightly, it sounds as if Lawrence is again searching for his perfect muse. On "Revelations" there's no real melody line, just pure feeling in a modal, loping 3/4 time signature, while "L.A. Bosa" (spelled incorrectly?) has a Brazilian element sidled with a simple singsong style. "Speak the Word" is the signature piece for Lawrence and his ensemble, as modality is mixed with hard bop and a Middle Eastern flair. Pianist Nate Morgan, a veteran of modern California-based jazz and commercial funk (remember him in Rufus with Chaka Khan?) stands out as an inventive and lyrical player based in Tyner's precepts, but also steeped in the lore of Thelonious Monk and mentor Horace Tapscott. He plays the prettiest during Tyner's "Aisha," buoying the fluid tenor sax of Lawrence on a 6/8 to 4/4 ballad for the ages. Veering into the slow pop arena, "You Make Me Feel Brand New" and the less obvious "Luxury" seem like unnecessary filler. Then there's the two-part "Vestida de Solea," replete with handclaps, acoustic guitar, and Spanish vocals from Cristobal Osorio in a flamenco stew of rich proportions that suggests a possible new direction for Lawrence but not fully realized here. It seems Lawrence is only scratching the surface with this hasty pudding of a recording, but there's so much potential to be realized, and should be in any follow-up project.



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