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3 Tenor Sunday Saxophone Summit
Sunday, June 21st, 2009
Every now and then you get to witness an Artist that hasn't been around for some time and you wonder, where has he been and does he still have his chops. Such was the case when Very Truly Yours Consultants Inc. once again put together one of those very special "Sunday Serenades" this time bringing in from Los Angeles California one time McCoy Tyner tenor saxophonist Azar Lawrence. The concert was entitled "3 Tenor Sunday Saxophone Summit" and his front line band mates were the talented Grant Stewart and long time Arthur Taylor Wailers tenor saxophonist Willie Williams. This was the first time these great tenor saxophonists had ever performed together and let me tell you "it was one amazing afternoon of music". A close to packed house came out to the Bassline to spend their Father's Day listening to this saxophone summit that had them yelling and screaming from start to finish. The rest of the band included Alvester Garnett on drums, a surprise stand in on bass Seth Lewis for the late arriving Dezron Douglas, and Benito Gonzalez on piano. As Benito had been saying leading up to the concert "there will be no prisoners taken".

The opening composition was "Moment's Notice" by John Coltrane. Azar took the first solo and it was no secret that he was ready for his Bassline debut. Willie and Grant followed with powerful solos of their own followed by a solo by Benito that reminded everyone of McCoy Tyner. After the front line traded fours, Alvester was given an opportunity to put his two cents in before the ensemble took it out. I wondered if this was only the first tune how much better can these guys be. Wow, did I ever find out with the next tune being the Charlie Parker original "Now's The Time". After the head Willie took the first solo and his romp included quotes from four or five tunes and in between his honks he was popping his mouth piece much to the audiences delight as well as his band mates. The rhythm section set a solid foundation and I feel that I have to make mention the amazing bass work of Seth Lewis. What's even more amazing Seth didn't even have a minute to go through the tunes before hitting the band-stand. I guess when you come from the University of Jackie Mclean in Hartford your ready for whatever. This young man while swinging had a heart beat that had nothing irregular about it. The next tune was the ballad "Say It Over And Over Again" and it featured Azar Lawrence. While listening to this piece I thought John Coltrane came through the roof and onto the band stand. Let me tell you folks Azar played the hell out of this piece. Alvester's drum work was so warm and tasteful that Azar knew he was in good company. After the tune Azar turned to Alvester and told him how beautiful he was and Alvester had a smile from ear to ear. The final tune of the first set was the Sonny Stitt original "The Eternal Triangle". Grant and Willie opened by playing the head while Azar stood off to the side listening intently. Willie took the first solo and went on a merry romp of chorus after chorus with a few quotes before handing it over to Grant whose solo was a little shorter, but with a lot of substance and technique. The next solo belonged to Azar and he took everyone at the Bassline on his own romp with an amazing solo that had sheets of sound raining down. Benito's solo followed and with two hands flailing Benito showed that he had a lot of ideas and fire to lend to this tune. At one point during his solo I thought he was going to throw the chair he was sitting on at the key board. Willie and Grant came back and took the tune out in grand fashion to end the first set.

The second set opened with the McCoy Tyner original "Inner Glimpse" and make no mistake about it this was Azar's tune. Azar's solo was by far his best solo of the afternoon. He got into every note like each one might be his last. Willie followed and in all the years I have seen Willie Williams live I have never seen him work as hard as he did for this Tenor Saxophone Summit. Grant followed with a quote from the head of this tune before reminding everyone he knew who Sonny Rollins is. Grant's approach is more on the melodic side than Azar and Willie, but it was such a beautiful contrast and make no mistake about it his front line mates dug his playing. The tune was taken out in a rousing fashion. The next tune was the beautiful "I can't Get Started" with lyrics written by Ira Gershwin and it featured Grant Stewart. His playing on this tune was something to behold. His solo was warm and rich with texture and you knew he meant everything he was playing. The next tune was the Horace Silver classic "Song For My Father". This tune also marked the arrival of Dezron Douglas and you could see he couldn't wait to get on the band-stand. After solos by Azar, Willie, Grant and Benito it was Dezron's turn to lend his hand to this Tenor Saxophone summit. Dezron has this big fat deep sound that at times he sounds like a percussionist. That is probably why drummers love to play with him. Dezron is the nephew of a good friend and drummer Walter Bolden who has passed on, but you can see he taught his nephew well. The next tune was the beautiful "In A Sentimental Mood" and this featured Willie Williams. You could tell that Willie knew all about some sentimental moods. The guy from the City of brotherly love (Philadelphia Pa.) weaved his way into this tune and by the time he was finished he turned this tune inside out. The afternoon closed with the Thelonious Monk composition "Straight No Chaser". Azar took the first solo and it was a spirited one. He then gave way to Willie who was lifting his left leg high while holding his horn high and to the side reminiscent of Lester Young. Grant followed with a nice solo before handing it off to Benito who was having a ball trading licks with Dezron while Alvester was filling in the spaces with some licks of his own that reminded this listener of Ed Blackwell and Art Blakey.

This was a much anticipated concert that brought together three very different Tenor styling's with a burning rhythm section. The results were something that will be remembered for a long time to come. The importance of being there live hearing these masters perform before an appreciative audience becomes even more important because you can never replace being there live in a room that lends itself to some great listening. For those of you who missed this "3 Tenor Sunday Saxophone Summit" you missed a musical happening that will be talked about for many years to come. It just makes you wonder if "Very Truly Yours" can keep coming up with these wonderful "Sunday Serenades" like they do. That being said you better get up off your couch, grab your pants, call a friend and get out to the Bassline because this music needs to be heard live and in person. Hope to see you next time.
- Arnie Perez
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