CLIFFORD ADAMS (62) has died from liver cancer. The Trenton, New Jersey-native was perhaps most widely appreciated as a longstanding member of Kool & The Gang Band (playing the now classic solo on their 1983 crossover hit, “Joanna”). Adams was also a seasoned jazz player who began his recording career with organist Charles Earland and later played with giants that include Max Roach, Lou Donaldson, Art Blakey, Sonny Rollins, Sonny Stitt, Richard “Groove” Holmes, Roy Haynes and Clark Terry, among others. as we salute and say good bye to him we also offer our prayers to his family
story posted by Robert J. Carmack
In the almost 40 years plus of playing music, producing and writing about music especially Jazz, I have seen many triumphant returns. In the last 40 years , there have been only three major triumphant returns to greatness in Jazz, early 1970s, Jug Gene Ammons, the mid 70s return of The great Dexter Gordon, and late 70s/80s return of Miles Dewey Davis IMHO. As I drove into the Long Beach California venue where the Seabird Lounge is located , I thought about those three titans and their return to greatness .whatever they went through to get to that point in their professional careers. This rainy night in January , casted a defining moment in my eyes where all of the power, spiritual meditation and passion all met at the fork, with the end results being all smiles and a thunderous applause as the pay off. Azar Lawrence has been on this path back for the last 10 years, at least from my perspective. I have been an avid fan since I first saw him with Alice Coltrane ensemble at the famous Lighthouse circa 1972 conjuring up the spirit of John Coltrane through tone and approach on the tenor saxophone. From that point on, Lawrence was seen in the company of some of the highest ranking jazz musicians of the era at the time, musicians like Alice Coltrane, McCoy Tyner and Woody Shaw just to name a few . Azar was sailing along, getting great press and multi-recording sessions, festivals and club work up until the end of 80s & as the 90s was unfurling , he just disappeared from the music scene altogether, Poof! Gone! then a little over 10 years ago, I saw him at a jam session at the Billy Higgins World Stage in Los Angeles(Leimert Park). a little older, but that sound was still intact. I moved away to Atlanta , and returned 12 years later to Los Angeles, often hearing about Azar Lawrence , but I never could catch a gig or concert. So this particular night was a great opportunity to watch a veteran musician that has all the experience ,maturity and life’s lumps that makes for a great evening of solid jazz improvisation. joining Lawrence for the evening ‘s performance was bassist Jeff Littleton,Theo Saunders, a phenomenal pianist creating lots of buzz around Los Angeles today.bringing up the heart beat was master drummer Alphonse Mouzon. a very special guest vocalist , Jeff Robinson appeared on the evening’s program as well.
Well , its January 2015, and he’s now leading his own Quartet. Azar was searing through the changes of Coltrane tunes like My Favorite Things, My One and Only Love, and Simone , a beautiful composition by Frank Foster, along with other great tunes throughout the evening. at one point late in the first set, Vocalist , Jeff Robinson and Azar teamed up on a John Coltrane Johnny Hartman classic, You Are Too Beautifull. I found Robinson navigation of that tune to be excellent . Robinson showed his musicianship as he often played behind the beat on his vocals of well-known standards with Jeff’s very soulful spin he puts on these gems. In addition to ballad You Are Too Beautiful, Jeff hit really funky versions of So what , and Round Midnight
The fairly full club was in-sync with Lawrence all evening as he ran through one tune after another, taking us on great adventures and putting us on cloud nine. Lol. Jeff Robinson a veteran performer has been around the LA jazz scene for the last 20 years. I first met him at a now defunct 5th Street Dick’s Coffee house in Leimert Park back in the early 90s. Robinson brings a certain type of swag to jazz singing that is not heard much today in male artists. You somehow get the impression Robinson, a prolific jazz singer could easily bust out in a Marvin Gaye classic with no problem. He really knows how to interpret the lyrics of these perennial jazz gems. ” You have to let these tunes breathe” said Robinson when I asked him about the “behind the beat” technique he employed on several songs which gave it new life as he allowed the songs to “breathe” while performing them.
This event was on january 10, but according to club management The Azar Lawrence quartet will be returning on Jan 31st @Roscoe’s Sea Bird Lounge in Long Beach California.
repost from the JAZZ DADDY Blog by Justin Scoville
November 11, 2014 | The Jazz Daddy | Leave a comment
To loosely paraphrase Jazz critic Gary Giddins, Kenny Dorham (1924-1972) has become synonymous with anything starting with “under”–underrated, understated, under-appreciated, etc. Dorham was a phenomenal bop trumpet player who was game enough to record with some of the most adventurous artists of his time, from early Thelonious Monk, to Cecil Taylor, to Andrew Hill.
Leading up to 1959, and in the decade or so to follow, Jazz history is often viewed through the lens of two giants: Miles Davis and John Coltrane. Because their influence was so enormous, it is easy to forget that many Jazz musicians were quietly advancing the music in significant, albeit more subtle, ways. Dorham was one of those overlooked artists.
As a composer, Dorham was an early pioneer of fusing Afro-Cuban elements into Jazz. He penned numerous standards (Blue Bossa, Una Mas, Lotus Blossom) that were Latin-tinged, but laced with forward-thinking harmonies and the blues. (Side note: I view Tom Harrell as a direct successor of KD, both as a trumpeter and composer).
While Miles Davis exposed the fragility of the trumpet with his “walking on eggshells” approach, Dorham explored an entirely different conception of the instrument that hearkened more to the reed family than to brass (although Dorham could blow brashly when he wanted to). Beyond his unique sound, Dorham’s polished yet organic style of articulation gave his improvisations a fascinating combination of edginess, humor, and laid-backedness.
One year removed from his own definitive recording released in 1959 (Quiet Kenny), Dorham’s Jazz Contemporary album puts all of his strengths on display with a sympathetic supporting cast. In particular, the rhythm section of Buddy Enlow (drums), Butch Warren (bass), and Steve Kuhn (piano) lay a fascinating groundwork for Dorham and baritone saxophonist Charles Davis (who later played extensively with Sun Ra). Warren’s aggressive bass lines, combined with Kuhn’s very modernistic comping and Enlow’s fiery snare, make for interesting listening. Jimmy Garrison holds down the bass chair in place of Warren on a few tracks as well.
I spoke earlier in this article about the influence of Miles Davis and John Coltrane. It would be easy to frame this album as having been recorded in their respective shadows. Enlow was a disciple of Davis’ drummer Philly Joe Jones. Kuhn would go on to briefly join Coltrane’s quartet, and was probably seen at this time as a successor to Davis’ preferred pianist Bill Evans. “In Your Own Sweet Way,” which is track #3 on this album, was also coincidentally track #3 on Davis’ iconic Workin’. And Jimmy Garrison, of course, went on to be Coltrane’s bassist through the 60’s. Charles Davis, Dorham’s saxophonist here, shows a strong Sonny Rollins influence, and Rollins was one of Miles’ early partners in crime. Despite all of those facts, I prefer to view Kenny as his own man.
“A Waltz” kicks off the album with KD swinging in 3/4, something Miles attempted sparingly in his career. “Monk’s Mood” is a challenging ballad that gets a lot of burn time with the group’s expert interpretation. “In Your Own Sweet Way” is an interesting contrast to Miles’ group rendition, with Charles Davis and Kuhn blowing furiously over the labyrinthine chord changes.
To me, “Horn Salute” is the highlight of the album. It’s a Dorham original that ingeniously blends stop-time melodies with challenging background harmonies. I believe this tune is a definite foreshadowing of Dorham’s later works with Joe Henderson. “Tonica” and “This Love of Mine” close out the album in a hard-swinging fashion.
While Jazz Contemporary may not be the most definitive Jazz album of the period, or even of KD’s discography for that matter, it still represents an interesting transitional phase for the underrated trumpeter. Each member of the band would go their separate ways to successful stints outside of Dorham’s employ, but it is reasonable to believe they all were indebted to KD for the opportunity to play in a swinging, original group.
KD Gem: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aUDt9-TMsXQ
posted by Robert J. Carmack #@blues2jazzguy
There are, on any given night in Los Angeles a jazz group playing somewhere in the city. Not being the Jazz city it was known for in 50,60s and even The 70s, L.A. has learned to “settle” for whats popular or what feels cushy and commercial. Well Saturday night at 9pm,January 10, there will be no cushy, “commercial pabulum’ pouring on the bandstand at the Seabird Lounge in Long Beach,California, One main reason is because a major iconic group will be performing ,The Azar Lawrence Quintet. Azar a throwback to the days when guys played the whole tenor saxophone , not just the upper register while circular breathing. Lawrence is known for his contributions as sideman to McCoy Tyner, Miles Davis, Freddie Hubbard, and Woody Shaw. Lawrence was the tenor saxophonist Tyner used following John Coltrane’s death. I personally saw him perform with Alice Coltrane at the famous jazz spot, The Lighthouse in the early 70s, he was not quite 21 yet.
I insist you come out and witness a monumental performance by a stellar personnel cast. Special Guest Vocalist Jeff Robinson, playing Piano, Theo Saunders, holding court on bass , Jeff Littleton, and the award-winning master drummer/producer , Alphonse Mouzon. Mouzon’s record speaks for its self as a major impact player for the last 30 + years , while performing with, Herbie Hancock, Weather Report, McCoy Tyner, Wayne Shorter and leading his own Fusion Bands. ONE NIGHT ONLY TWO SETS. 730 E. Broadway Long Beach,Calif. 562-522-5240
contact the club for more info. 562-522-8488