Artists - Azar Lawrence
"Black people overall came to America very spritual, that's why the music is called Soul"
The legendary saxophonist Azar Lawrence, renowned for his work with McCoy Tyner, and Miles Davis, talks to Seymour Nurse about his amazing career, and the albums "Bridge Into A New Age" and "Summer Solstice", that gave our Jazz-Fusion Dance Movement the classic "Forces Of Nature" and "Novo Ano".
Seymour Nurse: You were referred to as a child prodigy, and experienced a musical life from a very young age. What kind of environment were you in as a child that enabled you to develop this talent?
Azar Lawrence: My mother is a pianist and taught music as an elementary school teacher. I grew up in a house of music. My mother exposed me to jazz.
Seymour Nurse: What musicians, and recordings inspired you the most?
Azar Lawrence: Lee Morgan's, "Sidewinder", John Coltrane's , "A Love Supreme", Miles Davis "Sketches of Spain", and the late great Dexter Gordon.
Seymour Nurse: Your parents were very aware of your musical talent. How important was their encouragement and support?
Azar Lawrence: Very. My dad loved that I inherited my mother's musical gift and encouraged my talent. He made sure I studied, providing me with my instruments and music lessons, he was my biggest fan.
Seymour Nurse: Your teacher and mentor was the late Herbert Baker. You described him as "one of the greatest pianists that ever lived". What were the valuable lessons that he taught you?
Azar Lawrence: I can't put it into words. Herbert taught me to reach deep within myself, and listen to the voice.
Seymour Nurse: You worked with the legendary McCoy Tyner. How important were those early days of your career with him?
Azar Lawrence: Looking back, bigger than life. McCoy's wisdom is still with me today. Most of the time when I address audiences at performances, I always end up quoting McCoy's wisdoms and lessons he taught me then, and still does to this day.
Seymour Nurse: His live version of "Love Samba", which you were featured on, was one of the most challenging tracks to dance to, for Tyner truly is the master of intensity within a composition.
Azar Lawrence: Yes, Love Samba is truly a wonderful piece of work.
Seymour Nurse: You joined the Miles Davis band, but turned down the invitation when he first approached you. Why was this?
Azar Lawrence: I wanted to stay with McCoy. I dig McCoy's music.
Seymour Nurse: You later played on the amazing Miles Davis album, "Dark Magus". How was this experience?
Azar Lawrence: Surreal, I was 26 at the time and had no idea that to this day it would be considered one of Miles' deepest performances.
Seymour Nurse: The first album you recorded as a solo artist was, "Bridge Into The New Age". This is an exceptional piece of work. As a black child growing up in the UK, this music was very significant, as it enabled us to connect to our roots through its spiritual message.
Azar Lawrence: Parker, Coltrane, Miles, were architects of that bridge... we're just carrying it out. We're all a bridge into the coming Aquarian age; McCoy, the late Elvin Jones, Billy Higgins, Horace Tapscott are major forces in making it possible for us to be where we are now.
Seymour Nurse: The introduction to, "The Beautiful And Omnipresent Love" features some powerful chanting and lyrics, which I find so inspiring. How important was it for black musicians to embrace spirituality in that particular time period?
Azar Lawrence: Black people overall came to America very spiritual, that's why the music is called Soul.
Seymour Nurse: That's a beautiful quote. The "Forces Of Nature" was a huge track in the Jazz Room at the legendary, "Electric Ballroom". It was a real test for the kids to dance to, and I referred to the introduction of your solo as, "the point of no return". For me, this tune produced one of your most powerful solos on record.
Azar Lawrence: Thank you. Actually it was written by Shams & Ernest Straughter and evolved from their performances with the Horace Tapscott Arkestra. How the Most High expresses him/herself through the elements are the "Forces of Nature".
Seymour Nurse: The second album you recorded was "Summer Solstice", which featured some great Brazilian artists in collaboration with Ron Carter, Billy Hart, Gerald Hayes and Albert Dailey. "From The Point Of Love" is an exquisite composition, and ,"Highway" is such a joyful samba, that was covered by the Brazilian percussionist Dom Um Romao.
"Novo Ano" was another big tune amongst us 'children' in, "The Horsehoe" and "Electric Ballroom" Jazz Rooms. This track produced some passionate solos from yourself, Raul De Souza, Dom Salvador, some great percussion work from Guilherme Franco and the beautiful melancholic vocals of Amaury Tristao. This music really captured the true spirit of Brazil.
Azar Lawrence: That was my sophomore album and I really wanted to expand on "Bridge Into The New Age"... musically the journey through ages and Brazil has that energy. Yes, all of those mentioned above are very good friends of mine to this day. There is an album right now in the works that follows along the same line, with a renewed energy.
Seymour Nurse: You recorded another album called, "People Moving". This took a more soulful direction, and featured Patrice Rushen, Harvey Mason, Paul Jackson, Mtume, Skip Scarborough, Lee Ritenour etc. This was embraced by dancers and DJs over here in the UK. "Theme For A New Day" and "People Moving" (to name a couple) were very popular tracks.
Azar Lawrence: Yes, thank you very much. The late Skip Scarborough used chords that reminded me of McCoy Tyner when he first played "Can't Hide Love" for me on the acoustic piano. The chords were those often used by McCoy Tyner. Skip Scarborough was a very down to earth songwriter, producer, arranger.
Seymour Nurse: As well as, "Can't Hide Love", "People Moving" also had a good version of Earth Wind And Fire's, "Gratitude". In 1983 you worked with the very talented Maurice White, writing and performing on Earth, Wind, And Fire's, "Powerlight" album.
Azar Lawrence: Yes it was a very wonderful experience working with the great Maurice White, the man is a scholar. Working with him work was phenomenal, he had a very advanced knowledge of producing.
Seymour Nurse: You have performed with Ike and Tina Turner in their heyday. This must have been quite an experience?
Azar Lawrence: Working with Tina & Ike was a rich learning experience.
Seymour Nurse: Your career has been a very versatile one, for you have also worked with Elvin Jones, Clark Terry, Roberta Flack, War, Frank Zappa, Horace Tapscott, Henry Butler, Buddy Collette, Candy Finch, Busta Rhymes, and Marvin Gaye on his Grammy Award Winning Album, "Here My Dear". You also formed a band called, "Chameleon" that involved the legendary Fred Wesley. Obviously, you have been very busy over the years.
Azar Lawrence: Yes, I was busy developing for others and myself, mainly for others. Now I've switched the focus to myself and am working on a new sound.
Seymour Nurse: You've released a new CD entitled, "Legacy And Music Of John Coltrane". This album embraces the spirit of the master himself, and features some of your best playing yet, producing the most amazing solos. What was the motivation for recording this album now
Azar Lawrence: I saw it as an opportunity to express gratitude to those who have gone before that laid the groundwork for this music, that truly fulfills my inner being.
Seymour Nurse: Your epic version of Coltrane's "Impressions" is outstanding. What are your musical plans for the near future, and can we expect to see you here in the UK?
Azar Lawrence: Absolutely, you can expect to see me in the UK. I'm composing and arranging new music for the healing of people, those who know about it get it.
Seymour Nurse: Azar, thank you so much, for your works have touched me in such a deep way from an early age. May you continue to play the celestial music.
Azar Lawrence: Seymour, thank you and it is gratifying to know that the music has touched you in such a profound way, and I am truly honored.
Many thanks to Linda G at Zarmedia
Copyright 2007 © Seymour Nurse