Kuumbwa Jazz Presents
Keystone Korner 45th Anniversary Celebration Featuring Charles McPherson, Gary Bartz, Azar Lawrence, Benito Gonzalez, Ray Drummond, Juini Booth, Calvin Keys, Kenneth Nash, Roy McCurdy and more!
Fri · July 7, 2017
Doors: 6:00 pm / Show: 7:00 pmKuumbwa Jazz Center
$30.00 - $35.00
The Keystone Korner hosted a legendary roll call of jazz artists in its heyday. From 1972 to 1983, owner Todd Barkan produced a cavalcade of incredible concerts at the intimate venue, a former blues club. From Miles Davis and Rahsaan Roland Kirk to Elvin Jones and Max Roach, the Keystone Korner became an important stop on the West Coast for major name jazz artists. In celebration of the Keystone's 45th anniversary, Barkan has assembled an all-star lineup featuring saxophonists Charles McPherson, Gary Bartz and Azar Lawrence, bassist Ray Drummond, drummer Roy McCurdy and several other special guest artists who have been part of the amazing Keystone Korner legacy. If you missed out on the original Keystone Korner, don't miss out on this.
Hosted By Todd Barkan
No Comp Tix
Born : July 24, 1939 in Joplin, Missouri.
Gary Bartz took up the alto sax at the age of eleven.
As a teenager Gary had played sax in his father's nightclub, sitting in with Art Blakey and George Benson.
He had started on alto at age 11 and, after studying at Juilliard and the Peabody Conservatory, Bartz worked with the Max Roach-Abbey Lincoln group in 1964.
He followed that up by stints with Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers (1965-66), McCoy Tyner and Blue Mitchell.
Bartz made a strong impression with Miles Davis' 1970-71 fusion group, emerging as perhaps the strongest soloist on the recording 'Live / Evil'.
The altoist, who had recorded as a leader for Milestone and Prestige fairly regularly since 1967, did some of his finest work at the 1973 Montreux Jazz Festival (released on Prestige as 'I've Known Rivers and Other Bodies').
In 1970 he worked with Miles Davis, then in 1972 switched to the Prelude label and moved towards fusing soul R & B with jazz in his music.
By the mid seventies his recordings became funkier and more commercial.
His 1977 album 'Music Is My Sanctuary' is considered one of the finest fusion albums of it's generation, with the title track receiving 'rare groove' status.
1978's 'Love Affair' on Capitol (which featured an excellent revised version of John Coltrane's 'Giant Steps') which was well received in soul and jazz circles.
His next move was to Arista where he worked with writers / producers Mtume / Lucas on the single 'Music', taken from the album 'Bartz' (1980).
He also recorded with The Blackbyrds and Rena Scott.
By 1987, Bartz started recording more mainstream jazz style albums for Mapleshade, SteepleChase and Candid.
Gary Bartz is an underrated (and often totally overlooked) jazz great.
Born November 23, 1946 in Brookline, Massachusetts.
However, a glance at his career reveals a deeper, broader and more genre-defying aesthetic to him, one that has taken Azar not only through the bands of McCoy Tyner and Elvin Jones, but of fusion-era Miles Davis, Marvin Gaye and even Earth, Wind & Fire. As he gets ready to launch a world tour in the coming year, Azar returns to this deep well of inspiration, preparing three distinct projects that will offer remarkable new insights into his music and artistic vision.
While longtime fans may be familiar with Azar’s broad palette of work from the 1970s, newer devotees might know him more by his seemingly out-of-nowhere comeback following a two-decade near-absence, in which he demonstrated an almost overwhelming fire and intensity on quartet and quintet albums like Mystic Journey and, more recently, The Seeker. Since his return to prominence, a band began to congeal around Azar and to evolve into a highly distinctive unit, featuring pianists like Benito Gonzalez and George Cables, bassist Essiet Okon Essiet and drummers Jeff “Tain” Watts and Billy Hart.
Always packing an intense punch for listeners, the band also surprises through very thoughtful interplay, strong compositions and a genuine coming together of utterly distinct personalities to form a remarkable whole. “Benito brings a certain unique texture to the band,” Azar notes. “Pianists who know my background think ‘McCoy’ when we play together. They say Tain is the new Elvin, too, but for me, each of these individuals in my band ultimately built on what the earlier artists have imparted to them. They’ve brought their own expressions to the band and we’ve managed to evolve and change with one another.”
As this acoustic project has continued to grow and develop, Azar has also sought to extend his tonal palette. Drawing from his diverse musical roots, he will also unveil in late 2017 and early 2018 two electric ensembles: Electric Zar and Azar into the Night. “My friend Mtume noted to me that instruments like the violin, acoustic bass and piano are 18th Century technologies, and now we have new technologies we can use to express ourselves,” Azar explains.
“That made a lot of sense to me. What people have been hearing of mine in the past few years has been the acoustic approach and I’m working now to unveil new expressions. Even John Coltrane was expressing in his music how he had played many styles when he was growing up. For me, I enjoyed early experiences like playing with Jimmy Cliff and Marvin Gaye, or writing for Earth, Wind & Fire. I have always endeavored to write and perform songs that I love, and express what’s inside me.”
As Electric Zar and Azar into the Night point to innovative musical directions for Azar, the similarly forthcoming project Elementals offers new glimpses into his acoustic project’s evolution. “Elementals pays homage to the nature spirits,” Azar says. “It’s been told that when you’re in the presence of really great music, and you get goose bumps, that’s when the music has inspired the elementals to come in close rapport with us. This project will be a tribute to those elementals."
This month, Azar unveils works from Elementals, paired with music from his previous project, The Seeker, as he is joined by Steve Turre, Benito Gonzalez, Essiet Okon Essiet and Billy Hart. Indeed, even as his musical projects broaden into more fusion efforts, Azar also sees continued possibilities for the acoustic side of his works.
“I’m still experimenting, trying to find different sounds, keep moving and keep people interested,” he explains. “For me, the music is always growing and the expression within the compositions is always changing. My whole goal is to heal people with music and bring higher concepts to audiences through the music. I want my music to help people find meaning, to find themselves.” As a turbulent year continues, the multi-faceted projects of Azar Lawrence undoubtedly will help some listeners find comfort, meaning and joy.
Kuumbwa Jazz Center
320-2 Cedar Street
Santa Cruz, CA, 95060