Azar Lawrence

New Sky

New Sky, by veteran tenor and soprano saxophonist and composer Azar Lawrence, is what Toni Morrison called a “rememory.” That is, it’s a reanimation of something we remember but can now fully experience again. The album recalls what some label “spiritual jazz” (the eight-minute “Revelation” shines here), but with its vocal-forward tracks, there are also nods to the eras of soul, R&B and even Latin American influences.

Punctuated by a vibrant ensemble — pianists/keyboardists John Beasley and Nduduzo Makhathini, bassist Sekou Bunch, drummer Tony Austin, percussionist Munyungo Jackson, harpist Destiny Muhammad, singers Calesha “Bre-Z” Murray, Oren Waters and Lynne Fiddmont, and guitarists James Saez, Greg Poree and Gregory “GMOE” Moore — Lawrence’s smooth playing reminds us of his long career working across diverse styles. With titles like “All In Love” and “Just Because Of You,” New Sky is billed as a celebration of those things even a pandemic could not destroy. What survives is a wonderful collection of moments we can hold on to. Some memories remembered, some that we hope will live again.

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July 2024
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