Erik Lawrence was born in upstate NY and grew up around NYC area. His father, a jazz saxophonist and noted jazz educator (creator of the Jazz Studies Department at the New School) introduced him to Clark Terry, Dizzy Gillespie, Chico Hamilton and other jazz masters at an early age. He played with their bands. When Erik turned 5 years old his father handed him his first saxophone, taught him how to hold it, where the notes where and how to breathe and said “Now play what you feel” and that is what Erik is still doing.
In addition to the jazz he heard with his father Erik became entranced with the sound of the saxophone and with saxophonists with great sounds. He immersed himself in the music of Ben Webster, Sonny Rollins, Charlie Parker, John Coltrane, Eric Dolphy, Sidney Bechet, Booker Ervin and George Adams. Later it was Pharoah Sanders, Charles Lloyd, Archie Shepp and even Grover Washington Jr and David Sanborn. Along the way he developed his own sound on all of the saxophones and the flute.
Erik was also drawn to the soulful music of Stevie Wonder, Ray Charles, New Orleans Rhythm and Blues, Chicago Blues, Reggae, African Music, Asian Music, Middle Eastern Music, Eastern European Music, Spanish Music, South American Music until finally he listened to sounds in nature; bird songs and humpback whales.
Erik began teaching jazz history in college when he was 18 years old and has continued the role as educator throughout his career. Erik believes the creative process does not belong to one person or people; that it’s not what you are doing but HOW you are doing it and he wishes to convey this idea to the young and the young at heart. Aside from saxophone and flute students, Erik teaches his method of creative approach to drummers, brass players, strings, in fact all instruments, also to poets and artists who wish to learn the nature of interaction and how to respond to the natural rhythm found in all things.
Erik says, “I believe my own personal learning will never be completed.”
Erik Lawrence plays Saxophones and Flutes. He has received a Meet-the-Composer Grant for his writing. He began playing sax at five years old under the guidance of his father, jazz musician, founder of the New School of Jazz in NYC and the International Center for Creative Music Studies in Jerusalem, Rock and Roll Guru Arnie Lawrence, who told him to “Play what you feel.” Thus beginning what has been a lifelong spiritual quest through music. He is at home playing in various styles, from tradition to experimental, from large ensembles to solo.
By now he has brought his original melodic and rhythmic approach to Europe, Across the United States, South America and the Caribbean. He has performed Solo improvised saxophone at Carnegie Recital Hall in New York and has been the featured performer at the World Peace Festival and has performed in Europe at the Northsea Jazz, Discover Jazz, Montreal Jazz, Molde Jazz, Pori Jazz, Porto and Saalfelden Jazz festivals, the Free Jazz Festival in Brazil, the Falcon Ridge Folk Festival, Berkshire Jazz Festival and Bumbershoots.
Erik leads and plays with various ensembles. His sidemen have included Garth Hudson, Mark Egan, Steven Bernstein, Dave Tronzo, Aaron Comess, Mark White, Eric Schenkman, Alex Blake, Cameron Brown, Lonnie Plaxico, John Pizzarelli, Murali Coryell; and poets Jane LeCroy, Frank Messina and many, many others. His current original projects include Hipmotism, featuring Grammy nominee Steven Bernstein and drummer Allison Miller; MERGE Poetry/Music project featuring poet Cassandra Cleghorn, Allison Miller drummer and Rene Hart acoustic bass .
Erik has also currently or recently performed and recorded with legendary jazz drummer Chico Hamilton; with Steven Bernstein’s much acclaimed Millennial Territory Orchestra; Levon Helm and the Barnburners, Branford Marsalis, and The Masters of the Groove, featuring Bernard Purdie, Grant Green Jr. and Reuben Wilson.
Erik currently teaches jazz saxophone at Williams College and the Putney. He has taught sax, jazz, jazz history, ensembles, and methods classes at Montclair State University (94-2000) and Rockland Community College (80-84). He has also taught saxophone and flute to all ages and improvisation to all instruments for well over 20 years and is available for clinics.
He would ask that if you say daily prayers you consider adding the phrase “May Peace Prevail on Earth” to your daily prayers to help raise both personal and world consciousness about the possibility that peace is a viable alternative to anger in ANY situation.
Erik has performed and/or recorded with numerous artists in his roles as sideman and bandleader. Notable artists include:
Chico Hamilton (legendary Jazz drummer)
Neville Family Affair (featuring Aaron Neville and his sons)
Elvis Costello and Allen Toussaint
Rickie Lee Jones
Sonny Sharrock (Avant Garde Guitar Legend)
The Spin Doctors
John Popper (from Blues Traveler)
Steven Bernstein’s Millennial Territory Orchestra
Masters of the Groove: Bernard Purdie, Grant Green Jr, Reuben Wilson
Jackie Cain and Roy Kral
John Cale (from Velvet Underground)
A.C. Reed (Chicago Blues Sax Legend)
David Tronzo (Slide Guitar Master)