AzAR lAwRenCe Mys­tic Jour­ney (Fur­ther­more)

Pasatiempo - - Pasa Tempos -

Dur­ing the 1970s, sax­o­phon­ist Azar Lawrence played in the bands of Elvin Jones, McCoy Tyner, Miles Davis, and Fred­die Hub­bard; and he led three well-re­garded re­leases on the Pres­tige la­bel. His groups in­cluded Woody Shaw, Ju­lian Pri­ester, Ron Carter, Billy Hart, and Lee Rite­nour. He didn’t lead a record­ing again for more than 30 years. He has re­cently be­come pro­lific again — this is his third al­bum in three years. It’s a sex­tet fea­tur­ing drum­mer Rashied Ali (in one of the last ses­sions be­fore his death last Au­gust) and trum­peter Ed­die Hen­der­son. The ac­tion be­gins with the ti­tle track, a to­tally hot mix driven by the leader and Ali. Venezue­lan pi­anist Ben­ito Gon­za­lez con­trib­utes strong comp­ing and an ace solo in the Tyner vein, with pounding block chords and fleet right-hand melodies. Bassist Essiet Essiet opens “Sum­mer Sol­stice” with a re­peat­ing 10-note fig­ure that acts as ground to heady roles by the horn play­ers. A happy sur­prise on Mys­tic Jour­ney is the great writ­ing by Gon­za­lez, who penned “Quest,” “Jour­ney’s End,” and “Start­ing Point” — all al­bum high­lights. The band of­fers a dy­na­mite take on Tyner’s “ Walk Spirit, Talk Spirit.” With just two vari­a­tions — “Quest” and the Frank Loesser song “Say It Over Again” — Lawrence is unswerv­ingly en­er­getic, al­though some of his rapid-arpeg­gio flur­ries sound a tri­fle gra­tu­itous or oblig­a­tory. This is still a stel­lar ef­fort. — Paul Wei­de­man

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