In the early 20th Century a young girl named Ima Jeane Smith often went to the movies--Silent Pictures-- where the only sound was a live pianist, vamping dramatically in sync to the happenings on the screen.
Upon returning home from the pictures, Ima Jeane would sit down to her piano and play the "sound track" by memory. Her parents, Casey and Beulah recognized their daughter's gift and they provided her with formal lessons. Ima excelled in Classical music. She graduated from college with a Masters Degree in Music, an impressive achievement for any woman born in 1917.
After college she moved to Los Angeles, CA, became an educator, married and gave birth to two sons. Both sons inherited her artistic abilities. Her youngest son, Azar Lawrence received the music gene and under her direction formally began studying violin and piano. From age five to eleven he was a member (2nd Chair) of the (USC) University of Southern California Jr. Orchestra as a violinist. By the time Azar graduated high-school in '68, he was a highly sought after Jazz musician.
He mastered his chops on the horn as a band member of McCoy Tyner's, Miles Davis', and Elvin Jones' groups. In the late 70's when Azar Lawrence "left" the Jazz scene, it was accurately stated by his mentor and fellow band mate Elvin Jones, that "Azar had gone into the studio and was making good money." True. One of many notable productions he performed on is Marvin Gaye's '74 Grammy winner 'Hear My Dear'.
Azar signed with Fantasy/Prestige Records, produced three albums and throughout the 80's was a staff writer for Capitol Records and Assistant to Stan Neufeld of Orion Pictures where he worked in production for Hollywood Squares. In the 80's and 90's he performed with artists across various musical spectrums. He wrote four songs including the title on Stanley Turrentine's 'Comin Home' album; on that album he also played keyboards. He collaborated with Maurice White of Earth, Wind & Fire, writing three songs and performing keys on their 'Powerlight' album. His sound being present on many productions, Azar can also be seen performing on Busta Rhymes highly praised 2005 video 'In The Ghetto'.
On the cover of Azar's newest release, Mystic Journey (Furthermore Recordings), it says, "Life is a Mystic Journey, Fulfill Your Destiny". Mystic Journey is ascending Azar to the limelight again. After enduring some trying times, he is back on solid footing and has returned to his roots, his Destiny. Mystic Journey is under review by the Recording Academy for first round vote consideration for a possible 2010 Grammy nomination in the Best Instrumental category.
On occasion Azar is contacted by some former student who reminds him of the impact made on him or her by Ima Jeane Lawrence, classical pianist, educator and mother to the young violinist who became a jazz saxophone powerhouse in his late teens. She, Ima has to be smiling from the great beyond as Azar continues the legacy of music she bequeathed to him.
Azar Lawrence performs as special guest with the The High Arts Society, of Warsaw Poland - "Frederic Chopin's 200th Birthday Party - A Polish Jazz Celebration" Monday September 27 at the Chicago Orchestra Hall at Symphony Center, 7:00 PM, 220 S. Michigan Avenue Chicago, IL 312.294.3000 and Monday October 4 at Carnegie Hall, Stern Auditorium / Perelman Stage, 8:00 PM. 881 7th Avenue, New York, NY - 212.247.7800
Note: Azar's first performance at Carnegie Hall was with Miles Davis on the live recording 'Dark Magus.'