Chuck Koton has been a jazz lover for 40 years and is currently covering the Los Angeles jazz scene for AAJ.
I grew up in New York and, since high school, I have spent much quality time hangin' at
the Village Vanguard and many other jazz clubs. I am an educator and a jazz
photographer, now living in Los Angeles.
My Jazz Story
I met Azar Lawrence after he performed with Pharoah Sanders. I had gone to the Jazz Bakery, which I can happily report will be reincarnated soon, four nights in a row, digging every set by Pharoah. On Saturday night, near the end of the first set, Pharoah brought a guest tenor player up on stage to play with him. This cat blew with the power of a tornado, matching Sanders note for note. Who could this be? I couldn't believe I didn't recognize this horn player.He had to be "somebody" because Pharoah wouldn't ask anyone who lacked sax "cred" to join him. Well, I introduced myself to this monster tenor player as he was leaving and he told me his name, Azar Lawrence. I almost passed out. I had a recording of his from the early 70s, "Summer Solstice," but it had literally been decades since I'd heard anything from him. Of course, back then Lawrence had played with Elvin Jones, been in McCoy Tyner's band for five years and recorded on Miles Davis' "Dark Magus," as well as with Woody Shaw and many others. Well, that was the beginning of a beautiful friendship. To this day, I rarely miss an Azar Lawrence performance and at each performance I am literally and figuratively "blown away" by the emotional power of his playing. Happily, Azar is on the way back to the jazz world's zenith. He has released two unforgettable recordings in the last couple of years, "Prayer For My Ancestors" and more recently, "Mystic Journey" on Furthermore Records. A recent highly acclaimed gig at the Jazz Standard, "The Seeker," was recorded and released on Sunnyside Records. Azar, Blow man, Blow!
The first jazz record I bought was Miles Davis' "Bitches Brew."