If the name Doug Lawrence
doesn't sound familiar, the name Count Basie
surely should. What is the Lawrence- Basie connection? Well, for more than two decades Lawrence has been the featured tenor saxophone soloist with the renowned and still- active Count Basie Orchestra, a chair once impressively occupied by the likes of Lester Young
, Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis
, Lucky Thompson
, Wardell Gray
and Frank Foster
, among others. When someone has been around as long as Lawrence, he or she makes a lot of friends, seven of whom Lawrence has enlisted to lend a hand or two on his latest CD, aptly titled Doug Lawrence & Friends
While recording dates and sites are not given ("studio" and "location," the jacket says), there is clearly more than one session involved, as guitarist John Webber
and drummer Joe Farnsworth
appear on tracks 1 to 3, and are replaced by guitarist Kyle Asche
and drummer Xavier Breaker
on tracks 4 to 6. Organist Dan Trudell
is the lone constant, performing on every track, while trumpeter Freddie Hendrix
and baritone saxophonist Frank Basile
make it a sextet on the first two numbers, Lawrence's freewheeling "Night Flight" and Jimmy Forrest
's graphically paved "Soul Street." Lawrence, backed by the rhythm section, plays flute on Track 3, Big John Patton's rhythmically robust "Latona."
Lawrence, an outspoken and self-assured soloist from the Foster/Dexter Gordon
school of audacious boppers, is quite generous when it comes to giving his friends a chance to shine. Hendrix and Basile make the most of that, soloing earnestly on "Night Flight" and "Soul Street," while Lawrence "takes flight" on his own opener and delivers the goods again on "Soul Street" before crafting an ardent flute solo on "Latona." Even though Lawrence leads a quartet the rest of the way, he makes sure that Trudell, Asche, Webber, Farnsworth and Breaker have their say as well, taking care to assure that his firm and powerful voice never overshadows anyone.
Lawrence is loose and swinging on Hank Mobley
's assertive "Early Morning Stroll," shows he is at ease with a ballad on "Tenderly," and closes the album with yet another gentle serenade, "I Want a Little Girl," which is altogether fitting, as the album is dedicated to Lawrence's teen-age daughter, Lyla. She should be pleased by the outcome, as should anyone who appreciates good- natured, straight-from-the-shoulder jazz.
Night Flight; Soul Street; Latona; Tenderly; Early Morning Stroll; I Want a Little Girl.