Home > 1974, jazz, US > Bridge into the New Age

Bridge into the New Age

Azar Lawrence – Bridge into the New Age (Prestige, 1974)

As you can tell by the cover, this is not your typical coffee shop jazz record. Azar Lawrence is best known for his work with McCoy Tyner and Miles Davis, but his records as a leader were just as powerful and innovative. Bridge into the New Age is the first of three records the sax player recorded for Prestige and I feel it’s his most dynamic and interesting to listen to as a whole. His other records get more recognition because of their inclination towards a jazz-dance feel, but this record shows a young player (he was 21 when this record was recorded) taking in the history of jazz and updating it into a time period focused on Afro-centrism, peace and love.

The first thing that I have to say about this record is that for the time period, it’s astounding to hear this much experimentation and musical abstraction without the use of ANY electric instruments, it is a completely organic acoustic jazz experience. Not to say this is a free jazz record, because it definitely is not – it’s a new-jazz record, a sound just as challenging and interesting at a time when people like Miles and Herbie began making jazz marketable by adding synthesizers and electric guitars. Instead of going electric, he looks towards his contemporaries Keith Jarrett (he was also in Miles’ band) and Carlos Garnett to achieve a sound which was rich and experimental but still acoustic.

There are a lot of great players on this record, firstly the amazing Jean Carn who is known for her immense breadth of work including records with Earth, Wind and Fire, Doug Carn, Dizzy Gillespie, and Norman Connors as well as her solo work on Philly International and Motown. Other stand-out musicians include Woody Shaw, Billy Hart, Ndugu and the legendary Mtume. An interesting note here is that Eddie Harris engineered these recording sessions which is pretty wild.

The sound on here is “new jazz” but the use of multiple percussionists keep the music earthy, and Azar’s solos are never too far-out, just wild enough to show you he’s playing from his heart. “Bridge,” “Warriors,” and “Forces” are all faster numbers that truly take you into a new age of jazz, while “Fatisha” and “Beautiful” are more contemplative spiritual jazz tracks. Overall a fantastic listen. For those interested, Azar is still playing and in fact released a new record last week with the late Rashied Ali on drums. I haven’t heard it yet, but  2009’s Prayer For My Ancestors was great and I’m sure the latest one wont disappoint.

Link is in the comments! Album photos by Eydie McConnell

Categories: 1974, jazz, US
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