Mentor and Teacher on Jazz Scene, Dies
By Ben Ratliff, New York Times.
Arnie Lawrence, a jazz saxophonist and pioneering educator who helped found
the jazz program at the New School University in New York and started an
innovative program to train young jazz musicians of both Jewish and Arab
backgrounds in Israel, died on April 22 in Jerusalem. He was 66 and lived in
Jerusalem. The cause was lung and liver cancer, said his son Erik Lawrence.
Mr. Lawrence grew up in the Brownsville area of Brooklyn and was playing
professionally in the Catskills at age 12. In the early 1960's he worked in
Los Angeles for two years, including a stint with Chico Hamilton's band; he
can be heard on one of Mr. Hamilton's better-known albums, "The Dealer."
By 1963 he had returned to New York, working with Clark Terry, among others,
and in 1967 joined the house band of Johnny Carson's "Tonight" show as lead
alto player. He stayed with the show until it moved to Los Angeles, in 1972.
Later in the 1970's he worked with Dizzy Gillespie, Liza Minnelli, and
Blood, Sweat and Tears, and led two groups, Treasure Island and Children of
Arnie Lawrence & Dizzy Gillespie
But it was perhaps Mr. Lawrence's career as an educator that made the
biggest impact on the jazz world. He started in the mid-1970's, with
artist-in-residence jobs in Kentucky and Kansas. In 1986, he helped found
the jazz and contemporary music program at the New School in Manhattan, and
became a full-time faculty member. The program became known for an
unorthodox, less academic approach, breaking down the walls of the
institution to take the students out into the jazz scene in the city. He was
a mentor to a generation of New York jazz musicians, including Brad Mehldau,
Roy Hargrove and Larry Goldings.
In 1997 Mr. Lawrence moved to Israel, founding the International Center for
Creative Music, Jerusalem. With some public support and his own savings, he
attempted to bridge the Jewish and Arab worlds through jazz education,
though he insisted that he was simply bringing musicians together and did
not care what their backgrounds were.
"I've been called naive and stupid and perhaps a bit crazy," he told a
reporter for United Press International in 2001. "Maybe I am. But I have
The school was housed in a building offered by the Jerusalem municipality's
department of culture, but it was not accredited; it had no tuition,
diplomas or age requirements, and the emphasis was less on music-theory
instruction than on the cooperative experience.
Mr. Lawrence also promoted two charities working for peace and for the
safety of children in conflict areas, God Bless the Child and Blues for
For a time, he ran a small club in Jerusalem called Arnie's Jazz
Underground, and before rising tensions made it impossible, he played with
Jewish and Palestinian musicians at the Flamingo club in the West Bank city
In addition to his son Erik, of Putney, Vt., Mr. Lawrence is survived by his
wife, Liza, of Jerusalem; his sons Scott, of Ellicott City, Md., and Danny,
of Jerusalem; two daughters, Marya, of Manhattan, and Jana, of Shreveport,
La; a brother, Howard, of New York; and seven grandchildren.
New York Times article, April 29, 2005
Arnie Lawrence's Band of Angels
Nizar Francis - Oud & Vocals Wisam Aram - Darbuka Elias Habib - Daf & Percussion Daniel Ron - Piano & Surprise Guests