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Live Reviews

A Jazz Explosion at the Musician's Union, Local 47, Los Angeles, CA

By Published: May 23, 2008

They performed a touching instrumental arrangement of "Please Don't Talk About Me When I'm Gone," each musician making his own statement of pleading. Valentine then joined the group, taking us on a blues- infused trip with Billie Holiday's "Travellin Light." The vocalist also performed the standard "Everybody Needs Somebody" and the 12-bar blues associated with Joe Williams, "Everyday I have the Blues." The ballad "Darn that Dream" drew silent agreement from the listeners, who were in no mood for sleeping. Valentine's vocal chops expressed the spirit if not very essence of jazz. Listening to him sing was a poignant and bittersweet experience.

The explosion concluded with the Azar Lawrence Quartet—the leader on soprano and tenor sax, Nate Morgan on piano, Roy McCurdy on drums, and Edwin Livingston on bass.

If the joint was previously jumping with an uncontrollable blaze, this was the realization of the total explosion, beginning with John Coltrane's "Chasin' the Trane." Lawrence's earnest and compelling message would make jazz converts out of the entire city! The music was filled with complexity, excitement, love, peace, communion, unity, and life. Once a drummer in the groups of Sonny Rollins and Cannonball Adderley, Roy McCurdy played with sustained drive, taking us to yet another pinnacle, while Morgan on piano emotively took us through a palette of colorful modes. The whole time Livingston was right in the pocket, stoking the flame and christening the crowd with his innovative bass work.

The quartet resolved their mission with the opulent Mongo Santamaria piece "Afro Blue."

Afterwards, the intervals of bending notes, expressive chord changes, and glorious melody and harmony was enough to make me wonder..."Did Christmas come early? What precious and loving gifts were presented for each of us from The California Jazz Foundation on this rare occasion?" Perhaps nothing more need be said than that the whole lived up to its billing and then some—an "Explosion of Jazz" and an earnest tribute to the greatest art form known to man since music began.



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