WBGO Radar

Azar Lawrence: The Seeker

azar lawrence album The Seeker

Saxophonist Azar Lawrence unleashes his inner urge toward the raw and devotional sound of John Coltrane on The Seeker, a live recording from New York’s Jazz Standard. 

From the opening modal mysticism of “Gandhi” to the fade to black of funked out bliss on “Venus Rising,”  Lawrence taps his restlessly probing approach to improvisation.  And he’s in good company all the while – goaded by drummer Jeff Tain Watts, met with equal parts force by trumpeter Nicholas Payton.  This isn’t music for the faint of heart.  It raises its voice in passion, setting the volume above the din of machines.  It is a cry that wants to be heard.   The band here commands you to listen.

Azar Lawrence, based in Los Angeles, has been making frequent trips to New York since he released an earlier recording called “Mystic Journey.” Those who have heard him since that time often nod their heads knowingly as they reacquaint with the powerful saxophonist on 1970s recordings with McCoy Tyner, Miles Davis and Woody Shaw.

The Seeker reminds us so much about that distilled emotion that coursed through music after 1967.  It leaves no doubt about John Coltrane’s influence on the sound of saxophonists and many other instrumentalists who followed his path as they explored their own.  Azar Lawrence is unabashedly pointing to his guiding star on this live recording.  Based on a listen to these original compositions, there’s still plenty of celestial navigation left to chart.

  -- Joshua Jackson, WBGO Vice President of Content

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