Jay Lawrence

Salt Lake City drummer Jay Lawrence joined some of the most esteemed West Coast jazz players at Andy Waterman’s venerated Umbrella studios and excelled among the Los Angeles jazz elite. He presented them with new material and produced an album so swinging and seasoned it sounds as though it could have been played by a working band at the end of a long tour.

His road to drum mastery differed from most jazz drummers. Lawrence had his union card at age 15. He studied with renowned drummers Gerry Genuario and Rich Havens, cutting his teeth on the Reno, Tahoe and Vegas show circuit. Reading, ensemble phrasing, and following a conductor are just a few of the skills he sharpened. They needed a percussionist on those jobs, so he played mallets, timpani, and hand percussion. Between the dinner and cocktail shows, he studied scores by writers like Nelson Riddle, Billy Byers and Peter Matz, learning theory, orchestration and chord-voicings. “That was a valuable education,” Lawrence says.

Formulating the concept of this recording, Lawrence states, “I wanted to choose my favorite, musically compatible players; Tamir, Bob and John were on the top of my list. When I found that they were available and amenable, I was thrilled.”

Lawrence is an interactive drummer. He provides the pulse and anchors the rhythm section as expected, but Tamir observes: “Jay listens to every single note, so it’s a real four-way conversation.” Sheppard adds: “Jay knows the language, but his playing is fresh. I was glad to be able to work with a new great drummer. This was a real treat!”

Perhaps the greatest measure of Lawrence’s mastery can be discerned in the way the sessions came together: The synergy and magic was apparent from the very first take, and eight takes were racked up on the first day.

A longtime vibraphonist, Lawrence is also an accomplished writer. The strength and inherent musicality of his compositions gave arranger Hendelman a lot to work with. “Jay’s writing,” Tamir notes, “takes different directions. He’s got a real lyrical quality and harmonic sophistication that feels natural.” “His tunes,” Sheppard offers, “are extremely melodic; they have a real mood. He wrote some beautiful stuff that was very challenging.” When Sheppard was told that his playing on the album is extremely lyrical, he added: “Jay really understands harmony. When the writing’s good, it’s easy to play that way.”

– Kirk Silsbee (Downbeat) Review, April 2012

Celebrated musician Jay Lawrence has enjoyed a diverse career as a performing and recording artist. Lawrence is a distinguished drummer, ethnic and orchestral percussionist, composer and arranger, educator, clinician, adjudicator, band leader, contractor and author. Versatile and creative, Lawrence’s vast professional experience began when he joined The Musicians Union (A. F. of M.) at the age of fifteen, and was immediately in demand working as a drummer and percussionist for myriad celebrity shows in Reno, Lake Tahoe and Las Vegas. Jay plays/endorses Vic Firth sticks, mallets and brushes, DW drums, Bosphorus and Zildjian cymbals, Remo drumheads, Musser vibraphones, Roland electronics, and LP percussion. He has been an Assistant Professor of Music at the University of Utah since 1988 and is the Director of Jazz Combos, Arranging and Composition at Brigham Young University (since 1996). He is also an adjunct jazz faculty member at Snow College, BYU Idaho, and Utah Valley University.

Lawrence has performed in concert with many celebrities, including, The 5th Dimension, Paul Anka, Vikki Carr, Cher, Roy Clark, The Coasters, Natalie Cole, Vic Damone, Sammy Davis Jr., The Drifters, Arthur Duncan, Barbara Eden, Michael Feinstein, Andy Gibb, Englebert Humperdink, Jack Jones, Tom Jones, Ben E. King, Gladys Knight, Rich Little, Loretta Lynn, Ann Margret, Maureen McGovern, Shirley MacLaine, Liza Minelli, The Moody Blues, Anthony Newley, Donny Osmond, Lou Rawls, Della Reese, Debbie Reynolds, Charlie Rich, Linda Ronstadt, The Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, Neil Sedaka, Frank Jr. and Nancy Sinatra, Red Skelton, The Smothers Brothers, Bobby Vinton, Dionne Warwick, Raquel Welch, Mary Wilson, and others.

He has also played for many productions and musicals, including, the Sponsors Party and African Nations Athletes Party at the 2002 Winter Olympics, High School Musical, Showboat, Singin’ in the Rain, City of Angels, West Side Story, Annie Get Your Gun, Fiddler on the Roof, Hello Dolly, Oklahoma, Bye-Bye Birdie, Hair Spray, Anything Goes, Joseph and the Technicolor Dreamcoat, Music Man, The Sound of Music, Phantom of the Opera, 42nd Street, and Les Miserables.

Lawrence has also performed with many jazz artists, including Shelly Berg, Jimmy Bruno, Randy Brecker, Brian Bromberg, Kenny Burrell, Cyrus Chestnut, Pete Christlieb, Richie Cole, Dee Daniels, Eddie Daniels, Brandon Fields, Carl Fontana, David Friedman, Al Grey, Benny Green, Don Grolnick, Wycliffe Gordon, Ellis Hall, Roy Hargrove, Milt Jackson, Hank Jones, Carol Kaye, Mark Levine, The Lionel Hampton Rhythm section, Bill Mays, Bob McChesney, Darmon Meader and the New York Voices, Don Menza, James Moody, Andy Narrell, Nicholas Payton, Art Pepper, John Pizzarelli, Jeff Richman, Arturo Sandoval, Tom Scott, Bobby Shew, Diane Schuur, Byron Stripling, Tierney Sutton, Clark Terry, Stanley Turrentine, Bill Watrous, Rodney Whitaker, Ben Wolfe, and Phil Woods. Jay has toured throughout the U.S.A., Canada, Europe, the South Pacific and the Caribbean with luminaries such as Chris LeDoux, James Moody, Liberace, Enoch Train, and The Osmonds. Lawrence has recorded many award-winning albums including those with Bob Mintzer, Andy Martin, Joey DeFrancesco, Mike Stern, Zoro, Chuck Findley, and others. The Jay Lawrence trio’s Thermal Strut on OA2 Records, featured Tamir Hendelman and Lynn Seaton and received critical acclaim in Percussive Notes, Jazz Times and other magazines.

Lawrence has recorded film scores and trailers for the following motion pictures: 101 Dalmatians, Army of Darkness, Double Impact, Eulogy, Flubber, Frank and Jessie, Gettysburg, Hercules, Home Alone 3, Huck Finn, Indian in the Cupboard, Jumanji, Man in the Iron Mask, Mighty Ducks 2, Mi Familia, Nightmare on Elm Street- Part VII, The Sandlot, Serial Mom, Stargate, Starship Troopers, Surviving Picasso, The Swan Princess, Tales From the Hood, The Three Ninjas Kick Back, U-571, Under the Moon, and When You Wish Upon A Star.

Lawrence’s television credits include music for ESPN, American Gothic, Crossroads (NBC), German Sports IDs, Hart to Hart, The Merv Griffin Show from Caesar’s Palace, Mrs. America Pageant, the HBO taping of Moulin Rouge, Orange Bowl halftime show, Ridin’ for a Fall (CMT video), Small Vices (A&E), Music and the Spoken Word with The Mormon Tabernacle Choir, Tenth Kingdom (mini-series), Warner Brothers promotional campaign, and Xena, The Warrior Princess series.

Lawrence has both adjudicated and performed as a clinician at the Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival, the Utah Chapter of the Percussive Arts Society (adjudicating the Statewide drum set competition for 24 years straight,) The Gene Harris Jazz Festival, Heritage Festivals in Las Vegas, Fidelity’s Park City Jazz Festival, the UMEA Conference, and The Juilliard Jazz Faculty Goes to the Mountains. Lawrence has received numerous awards, including, The Best Drummer In Utah award (The Private Eye Weekly-Annual Music Poll), Utah’s Favorite Jazz Drummer (Space Agency Peer Poll), Best Drummer—Stan Kenton Scholarship Winner (Sacramento Jazz Festival), and is a KUER Voice of Jazz and the 2009 Utah Arts Council Commissioned Composer grant recipient.

Lawrence has served as President of the Salt Lake City Jazz Society and as Chief Executive Officer of Jazz Arts of the Mountain West. Jay is also a founding director of the GAM Foundation’s Jazz at the Sheraton/Capitol concert series. His drum method, “The Drummers Workbook”, is now being used in several Universities across the nation, and has been endorsed by artists such as Alex Acuna, Carl Allen, and Terreon Gully.

Jay’s new recording “Sweet Lime” with Bob Sheppard, Tamir Hendelman and John Clayton will be released in April 2012 on Jazz Hang Records.

Jay is proud to be Linda’s husband, father of six children and grandfather of twelve wonderful grandchildren.

For more information about Jay Lawrence, visit his Website: http://www.jaylawrencedrums.com


The Jay Lawrence Quartet’s latest release entitled Sweet Lime is a tart treat with some delicious solos from all members of the band making this a musical confection worth a listen.

Of the eleven compositions on the album, seven are Jay Lawrence originals which seem to have ties back to Lawrence’s life or memories. Pianist Tamir Hendelman penned the arrangements for eight compositions which demonstrate his clever feel for the music. As in everyday life, musicians can often be judged by the company they keep, and in the case of drummer Jay Lawrence, he has chosen to surround himself with some top-notch players.

While tenor man Bob Sheppard’s name may not be widely known he is one of those highly regarded West Coast musicians who can deliver the goods in any setting or environment. There is not a tune in this session in which Sheppard does not make his presence felt. However as he was a member of Chick Corea’s Origin band, he does grasp the challenges posed by Corea’s oblique composition “Señor Mouse”. On Ray Noble’s ballad “The Very Thought Of You” he captures the inner beauty of the arrangement.

Tamir Hendelman is an approachable pianist with a highly inventive capacity and a subtle touch. He has worked in both the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra as well as with John Clayton in a trio setting led by Hendelman. So whether it is in the thoughtful introductions to “Fantasia” and “Every Little Thing She Does” or the swinging support on “Anthem For Jubal” and the and the wonderful Monkish “I Mean You”, Tamir never seems to play an out of context note or musical phrase.

The back line of John Clayton bass and Jay Lawrence drums are the glue that holds this band together. Clayton is an outstanding bassist with a big tone who offers exemplary playing throughout the album. Lawrence is an imaginative drummer who uses the complete drum kit not only to drive the band along but provide wonderful accents in all the right places.

While not an everyday working band, this album shows a cohesion that suggests this group should be taken on the road.
-Pierre Giroux

“What a creative arrangement– I love it! My compliments to all the guys– great playing. I’m honored.”
– Chick Corea (With reference to Señor Mouse, a track on Sweet Lime)

User Reviews from CD Baby

Sweet Lime has the spark and the juice and the taste. Simply one of the best sounding, best played, best organized, nicest, hottest, coolest jazz albums I’ve heard. Tamir and Jay also made ‘Thermal Strut’ six years ago. I have just discovered both albums, I’m listening to them right now and constantly. I don’t know if the players felt it was an extraordinary session, or just their ordinary level of excellence, but ‘Sweet Lime’ sounds like a great session. I am in love with it, hope you enjoy it too.
– Wade Cottingham

Drummer Jay Lawrence teams up with three of Los Angeles’ top jazz musicians (tenor-saxophonist Bob Shepard, pianist Tamir Hendelman and bassist John Clayton) for Sweet Lime. An excellent player who is mostly heard in a supportive role on this set, Lawrence contributed seven of the 11 selections.

The music is primarily modern hard bop and post bp jazz. On some of the more soulful tunes, Sheppard reminds one in spots of Staney Turrentine while at other times sometimes hinting at Michael Brecker although he mostly sounds like himself. The rhythm section is as strong as one would expect and the repertoire, which also includes Chick Corea’s “Señor Mouse,” “The Very Thought of You,” a Sting number and Thelonious Monk’s “I Mean You” (given New Orleans parade rhythms) clearly inspired the musicians. Of the originals, “Sweet Lime” (a mixture of “Limehouse Blues” and “Sweet Georgia Brown”) and the ballad “Furnace of Affliction” (which has a bowed Clayton bass solo) are particularly memorable although all of the selections are quite worthy.
-Scott Yanow