Azar Lawrence Quartet to play Pierce Street Jazz

Acclaimed saxophonist Azar Lawrence, former Miles Davis band member.
Acclaimed saxophonist Azar Lawrence, former Miles Davis band member.

November 1, 2011

By Darla Martin Tucker

RIVERSIDE, Calif. – ( Saxophonist Azar Lawrence, likened to jazz legend John Coltrane, will grace the Pierce Street Jazz stage this week, leading a quartet of experienced musicians.

The Azar Lawrence Quartet will perform Nov. 2 at 7 p.m. at the La Sierra University Alumni Center, 11500 Pierce St., Riverside. Admission is free. Lawrence will lead Theo Saunders on piano, Henry “the Skipper” Franklin on bass and Tony Austin on drums.

Lawrence cut his musical teeth early in life. By age five he had learned the drums, violin and piano and became a member of the University of Southern California Junior Orchestra, according to a biographical account.  At age 11 a family friend introduced him to the tenor saxophone and he fell in love with the instrument. During his twenties, Lawrence played saxophone with Ike and Tina Turner, War and other acts and alternately performed as a band member with Elvin Jones and McCoy Tyner. In 1974 he performed with Miles Davis’s band at Carnegie Hall in New York City, for a live, recorded performance that became the highly acclaimed “Dark Magus” album.

Franklin’s extensive musical background includes performances on more than 150 albums and compact discs including gold releases, many of which he produced. In March he released his 24th album, “Soul of the World,” recorded with his band on his SP Records lable. His band’s 2009 album, “Home Cookin’,” features the renowned Barbara Morrison on vocals. The project received airplay on KJAZZ 88.1 FM.

Franklin has played his upright bass with numerous jazz and pop greats including Al Jarreau, Stevie Wonder, Count Basie, Freddie Hubbard and Milt Jackson, and was part of the legendary Hugh Masekela’s band during the late 1960s. When not on tour in various parts of the United States and the world, Franklin performs at The Historic Mission Inn in Riverside, Calif.

Saunders has performed in many of the world’s most prestigious jazz festivals and concert halls with distinguished artists including Hubbard, Carla Bley, David “Fathead” Newman, Barbara Morrison, Charles Lloyd, Claudio Roditi, Victor Brasil, Raul De Souza, Bobby Rodriguez, Gladys Knight, the Four Tops 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. Artists Franklin, Ray Armando, Benn Clatworthy, Bobby Matos, and Bruce Paulson have recorded his compositions.

Drummer Austin, a Los Angeles musician, has kept the rhythm going more than 25 years playing a wide variety of musical styles. In his career he has performed with well-known acts, producers and bands, including Erikah Badu, Salvador Santana, John Avila of Oingo Boingo, Rob Wasserman, the Monterey Jazz Festival All-Star Big Band and others.

Austin began honing his talent at the tender age of seven, studying at the International Percussion Academy under Tom Hixon. His global career on the stage and in the studio took off when famed drummer Billy Higgins hired him as a ‘first call’ substitute. Austin’s television credits include performances for NBC’s “Studio 60,” “Rhythm and Jam,” and “E-Ring.” His awards include the Los Angeles Music Center’s “Spotlight” award for jazz instrumental. He earned a music degree from the California Institute of the Arts.


PR Contact: Larry Becker

Executive Director of University Relations

La Sierra University

Riverside, California

951.785.2460 (voice)

  • Last update on  November 01, 2011