Mar 29, 2010
I'm not sure the Passover seders are ready to be dazzled by the electric jazz of Randy Weston, but if the title fits, share it, and today we celebrate a "Blue Moses".
Weston recorded this album for Creed Taylor's CTI label in 1972, mixing electric funk jazz that the label did so well with his sense of African rhythms and instruments. And what a band - Weston on electric and acoustic piano, Grover Washington Jr on sax, Freddie Hubbard on trumpet, Ron Carter on bass, Billy Cobham on drums and Airto on percussion. All arranged by Don Sebesy and engineered by the inimitable Rudy Van Gelder.
What's it all mean? Weston's liner notes for the album explain:
The title song, is adapted from the rhythms and melodies of a religious song, "Sidi Mussa" (Arabic for Moses), one of the spirits evoked by an Islamic brotherhood of the Gnawa. (All the North African rhythm patterns have a spiritual identity; each identity has its own color - Sidi Mussa's color is blue.). There are a number of these brotherhoods in North Africa; the Gnawa originated in West Africa, and most of its members ore black. There are groups in Mali and among the Hausa in northern Nigeria whose music, rhythms and rituals are similar to those of the Gnawa in Morocco and Tunisia. The music of the Gnawa, which is passed from generation to generation without being written, is heard throughout Morocco. The instruments used vary in different areas, but generally the Gnawa use the gembri, a large box-shaped three-stringed instrument that is held like a guitar and sounds somewhat like a stringed bass; kakobars, large iron "castanets" held in the hands (which may be the forerunner of the sock cymbal); various kinds of drums and hand-clapping. (My son, Azzedin, learned the Gnawa rhythms he plays on his drums by listening carefully to the kakobars.)