As a sideman, saxophonist Azar Lawrence has played a role in some of the most important recordings of the 1970s, from Miles Davis’s landmark 1974 electric live album Dark Magus at age 21 to lending his talents to Marvin Gaye’s divorce-settling space-soul masterpiece Here, My Dear, not to mention a stint in Earth, Wind and Fire during the ‘80s. Yet on Mystic Journey—only his second album in two years following a prolonged sabbatical from a solo career—Lawrence delivers a soulful, spiritual performance with a stellar all-star ensemble comprised of Benito Gonzalez on piano, Essiet Essiet on bass, a million dollar horn section of Eddie Henderson on trumpet and saxophonist Gerald Hayes, and the late, great Rasheid Ali on drums in one of his final performances on tape on a collection of songs largely inspired by the freedom exuded from the artistry of Mr. Ali’s former boss, John Coltrane. For fans of true school black jazz, Mystic Journey is one of 2010’s most essential releases.
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