CHARLES OWENS QUINTET! LIVE AT THE MERC!


The Charles Owens Quintet Live at The “MERC! “~ Temecula California.

In a recent concert in Temecula, California at the famous “Merc” performance venue, veteran Jazz artist and saxophonist, Charles Owens appeared with his Quintet.

Owens, a Los Angeles based musician performed two very stellar sets for a jazz hungry audience. Being familiar with that music space,  I was able to get there early before the first set to grab a quick chat with the quite humble saxophonist. He shared with me many anecdotes and road stories along with who played a major role in influencing his play,style and approach. “As far as influences, Charlie Yardbird Parker and Wardell Gray for sax. The Modern Jazz Quartet and Art Blakey Jazz messengers in how I approach the music as a player or bandleader.” said a relaxed Owens. “But, I enjoy leading my own bands,however, I really loved my experiences playing with two iconic big bands. Duke Ellington’s Orchestra under the direction of his son, Mercer Ellington and the great Count Basie band.”  

This particular evening’s affair was very special to him as he’s performing with some old friends and solid jazz musicians. On the bandstand with Charlie were bassist, Henry Franklin,friends for over 40 years, Pianist Theo Saunders,whom he met in L.A. in 1977, veteran drummer Don Littleton, over 30 year relationship and his old bandmate from the Basie band, trumpeter Scotty Barnhardt, current Director of the Count Basie Orchestra.  

The SRO crowd were treated to a plethora of popular compositions, all performed with Charles Owens unique touch. First set opened with a Owens original entitled Wild Fire , a fiery piece with a great melodic line and solid enriched harmonies. Charlie and Scotty took some blistering solos, especially Barnhardt who weaved webs of delightful, above the line flurries of notes on his custom built trumpet. That was followed up by a lovely version of the perennial fave, Embraceable You. Barnhardt offered great artistry and sublime technique on this classic ballad. The Quintet quickly moved on the moment by playing a Sonny Rollins tune, Airegin (Nigeria spelled backwards) In my opinion, Scotty conjured up memories of icon, Woody Shaw as he peppered a white-hot solo. That song’s conclusion morphed into Ellington’s Take the A-Train! which ended the first set.

Highlights of the second set included equally great compositions by legends like Freddie Hubbard, Billy Strayhorn,Dizzy Gillespie with a surprise finale of the rarely heard cut, Don’t Get Around Much Anymore. This was quite the treat for me and the audience as Barnhardt reached into his magic bag of techniques and growled at the audience with his “Plunger” mute and choked notes..

Charlie Owens reputation as one of the most gifted and versatile musician in Los Angeles since 1972. Part of the attention had  to do with his craftsmanship with drummer Buddy Rich Big Band and latin great, Mongo Santamaria. In addition he added stints with English Blues King , John Mayall . Owens told me he was whisked-away from Mayall by music iconoclast, Frank Zappa.  Whether he’s asked to appear in a Oscar-winning film LA LA Land or staying fresh and current by working with young musicians on various bandstands, or teaching a weekly class at UCLA’s Herb Alpert School of Music. “During the break of the second set, he told me the reason he chose Frank Zappa. “I found Frank’s music more challenging than Mayall’s,.. I could have easily made more dough, but the challenge was calling me, as Zappa’s music was unique and quite eclectic.

Charles Owens was born in Phoenix, Arizona, grew up in San Diego California. One of his closest friends growing up was ,the late saxophonist Arthur Blythe or AKA, Black Arthur.”

Throughout the course of the evening’s performances I witnessed what most people always conclude, this is a very passionate player and humble almost to a fault. at one point in the second set, Owens and Barnhardt engaged in old-fashioned BeBop playing, to a song by Dizzy entitled the same, BeBop. the tune showcases long arpeggios and multi-note phrasing on top of mercurial-chord changes, played at break-neck speed by the entire band. At times, the rhythm unit of Franklin, Littleton and Saunders were like a giant bellows machine, stoking the coals to unheard of Fahrenheit-levels to the soloists.

Today’s young players can learn a lot from Uncle Charlie Owens. Even saxophone sensation, Kamasi Washington took a class or two at UCLA with Charles while eventually tweaking his already big sound and approach on his horn.  Whether you experience Charles Owens in a Big Band setting or a small combo, one thing for sure is, You will never forget that moment in time.

https://photos.app.goo.gl/P3q81hJckFjAop648

SOUTH AFRICAN MUSICIAN HUGH MASAKELA JOINS THE ANCESTORS-RIP 1939-2018


posted by Robert J. Carmack

It seems that a bevy of greats have left the stage and building since January of 2017. I realize that’s just life as we know it. Nothing to say about it case closed. However, I did not want to allow the sudden death of a great man and musician go by without saying anything about it. First, my exposure to Hugh Masakela goes back beyond 50 years(1966). I lived in Los Angeles and was studying music in high school and two off campus jazz bands  too. Soon summer 1966 arrived and I was quite anxious because, word had it, the very first WATTS FESTIVAL was coming to reality.  Heavy announcements of Music, Art and Pageantry to replace all the violence and melee that happened only one year prior.

The opening act was this new guy we had been hearing about from Africa that was making a lot of noise in New York.

Hugh Masakela was the Kick-off concert at Jordan High school gym that launched the 1966 Watts Festival & Cultural events. I can remember like yesterday as me and a group of guys who loved jazz, was quite excited about the possibilities and the fact it would be my first time seeing anyone from Africa that was not a cliché of Hollywood racists attitudes about portraying ,anyone from the motherland. That night was very special in more ways than the obvious. I was 16 and thought I was a grown man…the other was coming from a sociopolitical viewpoint. Black people were making a transition from being negro or colored people to Black people or Afro-American (first popped up as a description of black people at this time). Anyway, back to the music, Hugh was every bit an image and role model for us young men. he had a very interesting hair-style  or “Natural”, wore full African regalia, including “NO Shoes” as he went through the recently released album cuts of 1966 “The Americanization of Ooga-Booga.” Which I know now, was a title given and sanctioned by the marketing department at the record company. I assure you, mine and most of us were concentrating on the musical style of his trumpet playing and the rhythms being crafted by the unit led by Hugh. Larry Willis on piano, Henry Jenkins on Drums, Henry Franklin on Bass and Percussionist Big Black pounding out the beats on African drums and Congas.

Hugh was a master of blending the American style of jazz bop and blues idioms juxtaposition with African Rhythms. The eclectic mix of originals showcased his masterful composing skills . He introduced a whole generation of black folks and others to “South-Africanized” jazz. which was quite different in what we had heard by Dizzy Gillespie, Art Blakeley or Randy Weston and their  interpretations. He was bringing it “Straight with No Chaser”.

Some of the highlights of the evening’s performances was a composition by Herbie Hancock, Cantaloupe Island. Two other originals jumped out at the crowd which spawn several standing ovations when they ended.. Hale Se Di Li  Kanna(the Dowry song) and Bajabula Bonke (the Healing Song).

The influence of Dizzy Gillespie and Freddie Hubbard can be heard, along with McCoy Tyner in the playing of pianist Larry Willis, and he shows his debt to John Coltrane as an inspiration on “Mixolydia” as well as his affinity for Brazilian music on “Mas Que Nada.” But the core sound was what Masekela called “township bop” — his short trumpet bursts, sometimes seemingly approaching micro-tonal territory, are engrossing celebrations of the melodies of his repertory, which is mostly of South African origin. The buzz after the concert was so loud  and the cultural wave became a Tsunami of positive vibes for brother Hugh as he was affectionately called after that night.

 

 

 

 

By the fall ,I was still hearing rumblings about that summer concert.. only to find out that the very same group was scheduled to perform at our school sometime before the Christmas break. Man! what a blessing! Twice in less than two months. By the time they appeared  at our school, most of us was sporting Naturals and wearing sandals, some even wore  traditional Dashiki garb and begun learning more about the continent of Africa, particularly, South Africa. I became a life long Hugh Fan, even as he became more and more commercial in his albums, he always brought it back home with a solid menu of fan favorites like Bajabula Bonke, and Cantaloupe Island at the Live concerts.

I will always believe to my dying breath, he believed he was put here to bring joy from the motherland and  shine a light on freedom and respect for every one. His Nelson Mandela anthem (Bring him back Home) was globally huge and played a strong role in keeping the fire to the feet of the world powers. I know I will miss him and his musical spirit, but the whole world will miss his humanity. Rest in Heavenly Peace Brother Hugh!

TWO HOURS WITH AZAR LAWRENCE EXPERIENCE ~ THE RIGHT PRESCRIPTION


Los Angeles, CA. Nov 14__ The City of angels needed a rest from crazy news cycles and bad traffic reports,the perfect Rx was written last Sunday evening at Zebulon Café. Concord Records Group newest label, The Jazz Dispensary served up AZAR LAWRENCE EXPERIENCE in Bridge into the New Age .

Lawrence brought in his all-star lineup of jazz greats to recreate the spirit of his 1970s Original album. that album featured the best of the best of that era in musicianship, featuring the likes of trumpeter Woody Shaw and the electrifying Jean Carne on vocals. Azar Lawrence (ZARMAN) wasted no time in introducing the SRO crowd in the 300 seat club to gems from the album as the 7 piece band flexed its jazz muscles on the title track, Bridge into The New Age, a heavy mixture of hard-bop, modal and world fusion. One could not help but notice the audience, as it was multi-generational. The millennial and gen-X hipsters were digging on fiery-cosmic rhythms being fanned by veteran drummers Roy McCurdy and Munyugo Jackson on percussions & toys. Holding down the bottom was the “Skipper” Henry Franklin on bass. Anchoring the rhythm unit was the former keyboards for the late Alphonse Mouzon Quintet and current pianist Theo Saunders.The frontline, the very powerful trumpeter(Michael Hunter) and Azar Lawrence on saxes.

Sounding like an Angel on earth was the very beautiful, Ms.Windy Barnes-Farrell reaching new heights on vocals.

https://photos.google.com/photo/AF1QipM5dIST7pfJjnqxjY5Qt3X5Zxz5tZQwnlcUGaQE

One of the highlights of the evening was a velvety ballad by Azar and the band with vocals on the translucent and stellar composition, Fatisha,written by Azar.. He followed that cut up with a universal spiritual tune that begins with all drums and percussions with a minimal arcing by bassist Henry Franklin, before Lawrence then spins on chanted-spoken words, before being joined by the swirling rhythms of the band on The Beautiful and Omnipresent Love . Pick up your copy today at your favorite online store for music. https://www.concordmusicgroup.com/albums/jazz-dispensary/

 

 

 

 

 

 

mgt./media info Go to~ https://azarlawrence.com/  

Jazz Journalist RJ Carmack, vocalist-Windy Barnes-Farrell

 

MUST SEE JAZZ EVENT~ AZAR LAWRENCE EXPERIENCE HOTTEST TICKET IN L.A.!!


“ZAR” is celebrating his release on Concord Records, ”Bridge into the New Age” Sunday November 12 8pm-10pm Only!  Zebulon Café Concert in Los Angeles ~ 2478 Fletcher Drive L.A. 90039. Buy tickets:$25  https://www.ticketfly.com/event/1582784-azar-lawrence-experience-los-angeles/    

Saxophones ~ Leader – Azar Lawrence

Special Guest vocalist – Windy Barnes-Farrell

Bass-Henry Franklin

Trumpet-Michael Hunter

Roy McCurdy – Drums

Munyungo Jackson-Percussion

Theo Saunders-Piano

 

 

MEET AZAR LAWRENCE EXPERIENCE 2017~A BRIDGE INTO THE NEW AGE


Leader Azar Lawrence -saxophones   

Michael Hunter Trumpet/Flugelhorn

 

 

 

Bassist Henry “Skipper” Franklin
Drums Roy McCurdy
Munyungo Jackson percussion
Theo Saunders Pianist
Windy Barnes-Farrell – vocals

ZAR” is celebrating his release on Concord Records,”Bridge into the New Age” Sunday November 12 8pm-10pm Only!  Zebulon Café Concert in Los Angeles ~ 2478 Fletcher Drive L.A. 90039. Buy tickets:$25 https://www.ticketfly.com/event/1582784-azar-lawrence-experience-los-angeles/    

 

 

Background on recording :  https://www.jazzdispensary.com/

 

L.A. CLUB PAYS TRIBUTE TO McCOY TYNER WITH EXPLOSIVE JAZZ CONCERT


posted by Kamaad Tauhid #@blues2jazzguy

McCoy Tyner Tribute Quartet photo RJ Carmack

 

Roy McCurdy Drums photo Chuck Loton

 

Theo Saunders Keyboards with Juini Booth in background photo C. Koton

 

Robert J. Carmack Emcee/Spoken Word Poet photo A. Scott Galloway

 

A. Scott Galloway Music journalist

 

Re-posted from Facebook Post July 6th ..

Had the pleasure of taking in some smokin’ live jazz with fireworks as a backdrop for my 4th of July at a new REAL Jazz spot in Glendale named Zebulon. The quartet on deck equally featured saxophonist Azar Lawrence, drummer Roy McCurdy, keyboardist Theo Saunders and bassist Juini Booth paying homage to McCoy Tyner, John Coltrane and Elvin Jones. The emcee for the evening was Robert J. Carmack who also got in two powerful spoken word pieces with these giants at his back.

Try to make it out to this fine new venue which has a bar/lounge in front and a nice sized room for live music in the back. Also has valet parking and limited adjacent free parking on the streets behind it…on Fletcher Drive just north of Riverside Drive. Consider yourself hip tipped!

 

 

 

CHUCK MANNING APPEARING~ PIERCE STREET JAZZ SERIES LA SIERRA UNIVERSITY


posted by Robert J. Carmack  #blues2jazzguy

Pierce Street Jazz Series Chuck Manning
Chuck Manning appearing Live at Pierce Street Jazz Series

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Manning will perform at La Sierra on Wed., Jun. 15 at 7 p.m. and will be accompanied by Pierce Street Jazz regulars Henry “the Skipper” Franklin on bass, Theo Saunders on piano, and Ramon Banda on drums.

Manning studied jazz and performance at the University of North Texas. During an extensive career, Manning has shared the stage with Albert “Tootie” Heath, Al Mckibbon, Al Williams, Alan Broadbent, Alan Ferber, Alphonse Mouzon, Anthony Wilson, Andrea Pozza, Art Hillary, Azar Lawrence, and more.

He has recorded albums with the Los Angeles Jazz Quartet and has held a long-time collaboration with multi-instrumentalist Isla Eckinger. In 2008, Manning released his first solo album titled, “Notes from the Real.” Throughout 2016, Manning will tour with the Chuck Manning Quartet, Henry Franklin Quartet, and the Theo Saunders Assemblage.

Franklin has organized the Pierce Street Jazz concerts at La Sierra University since their inception as a summer jazz series in 2009. His broad experience includes recordings on more than 150 albums and compact discs including gold releases, many of which he produced.

Saunders, one of the busiest pianists in the music business, has performed in many of the world’s most prestigious jazz festivals and concert halls with distinguished artists including Freddie Hubbard, Carla Bley, David “Fathead” Newman, Barbara Morrison, Gladys Knight, and many others. He has directed music for opera productions and international musical theatre. As a composer, Saunders has numerous compositions to his credit as well as original scores for theatre, radio and multimedia production.

Banda performed 24 years with the Grammy award-winning Poncho Sanchez Latin Jazz Band. He is a current band member with famed jazz organist Joey DeFrancesco. Banda grew up in Norwalk, Calif., part of a large musical family. Over the past two decades, Ramon has performed on more than 22 recordings and recorded and played with such music greats as Dizzie Gillespie, Tito Puente, Freddie Hubbard, Chick Corea, Arturo Sandoval, Diana Reeves and others.

Pierce Street Jazz admission is free. The concert will take place at the Troesh Conference Center, Zapara School of Business. For further information, call 951-785- 2148. La Sierra University is located at 4500 Riverwalk Parkway, Riverside. A campus map is available at http://lasierra.edu/campus-map/.