504 Magazine, New Orleans’ jazz, blues and fusion publication, to kick off the 4th Annual International Jazz Day Weekend with New Orleans musicians and tribute to 100th birthday of late composer Billy Strayhorn

Composer and saxophone player Azar Lawrence will be joined by Grammy-winning multi-instrumentalist Nicholas Payton and vocalist Nayo Jones on Wed., April 29 for A Taste of New Orleans, two special New Orleans jazz performances at ASU Kerr Cultural Center. Show times are 6:30 and 9 p.m. Tickets are $65 premium, $50 reserved, $35 general admission and available at asukerr.com.

In celebration of the Billy Strayhorn centennial, a portion of the program will pay tribute to the prolific composer. Strayhorn is known for his three decades of collaboration with Duke Ellington. New Orleans music of several styles will be explored, including swing, neo-soul jazz and soul.

Songs from Lawrence and Payton’s new live CD “The Seeker” will also be featured.


Azar Lawrence [photo left] Azar jamming out! DID YOU KNOW the saxophone is a musicial instrument invented by Adolf Sax sometime in the 1800s. The instrument played by John “Trane” Coltrane (tenor sax), Charlie “Bird” Parker (alto sax), and Michael Brecker (tenor sax). Lawrence is a composer, arranger and saxophone player and has performed as a sideman to Miles Davis, McCoy Tyner, Freddie Hubbard and Woody Shaw. Lawrence was the tenor saxophonist Tyner used following John Coltrane’s death. Lawrence performed with Davis at Carnegie Hall, where they produced and recorded the “Dark Magus” album.

Lawrence was also an integral part of Earth Wind & Fire, working closely with Maurice White, composing on piano and writing three songs for the highly-acclaimed “Powerlight” album.

Payton was born and raised in New Orleans. He was given his first steady gig by guitarist Danny Barker at The Famous Door on Bourbon Street. After touring with Marcus Roberts and Elvin Jones in the early ’90s, Payton signed a recording contract with Verve; his first album, “From This Moment,” was released in 1994. In 1996 he performed on the soundtrack of the Robert Altman film “Kansas City.” Payton received a Best Instrumental Solo Grammy in 1997 for his work on the album “Doc Cheatham & Nicholas Payton.”

New Orleans artist Jones will join Lawrence and Payton, bringing her signature style of neo-soul jazz and New Orleans-influenced vocals. She ventures into other styles, such as bossa nova and New Orleans second line, a tradition rooted in the brass band parades of her home city. She has been signed by Universal Records and is currently touring the country with New Orleans’ own Kermit Ruffins. She is a regular at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. Jones’ rendition of “The Christmas Song” made the Top 100 most-played songs on Billboard during the 2014 holiday season.

Lawrence, Payton and Jones will be joined by local players Dowell Davis (drums), Ted Sistrunk (upright bass), Yanni Goudelis (piano), Kerry Campbell (alto sax) and Doc Jones (keys).

Doc Jones, producer of the event and Nayo Jones’ father, thought ASU Kerr Cultural Center was the ideal venue for this special series of shows. “The venue has the best sound system in town for its size, every seat in the house makes audience members feel like they’re in the front row–it has such a great up-close and personal feel.”

About ASU Kerr Cultural Center, a division of ASU Gammage Located off Rose Lane at 6110 N. Scottsdale Rd. in Scottsdale, Ariz., ASU Kerr Cultural Center is on the National Register of Historic Places. Built in 1959 by composer, violist, daughter of John C. Lincoln and famed “Grand Lady of Arizona Music” Louise Lincoln Kerr as a personal space for music performance and productivity, the venue is home to a diverse annual season of jazz, blues, world music, storytelling and theatre. Its intimate atmosphere, adobe and wood construction and excellent acoustics have charmed musicians and music lovers from across the globe. For more information, please visit asukerr.com or call the ASU Kerr box office at 480-596-2660.