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Arnie Lawrence
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 All Ages.

Arnie Lawrence, Dizzy Gillespie

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 hope."

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 Peace.

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 of Ramallah.

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, Band of Angels

Arnie Lawrence's Band of Angels

Nizar Francis - Oud & Vocals
Wisam Aram - Darbuka
Elias Habib - Daf & Percussion
Daniel Ron - Piano & Surprise Guests

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