Nov 13, 2010
When Randy Weston takes the bandstand, people look up to him. This is not just because he stands six foot eight inches tall, and often dresses flamboyantly in the bright colors of the African continent. It’s also because at 84 years old, Weston has assumed the position of an elder statesman, an NEA Jazz Master, and a father of pan-African classical music.
2010 has been a busy year for Weston. He is currently touring the United States with his African Rhythms Group, is releasing a new CD (The Storyteller on Motéma Music) and an autobiography (African Rhythms: The Autobiography of Randy Weston, a collaboration with noted jazz writer Willard Jenkins and published by Duke University Press). He performs at the University of Massachusetts on November 18th, as part of the "Art & Power in Movement -Rethinking the Black Power and Black Arts Movements", produced by the W.E.B. Du Bois Department of Afro-American Studies.
This year also marks the 50th anniversary of Weston’s first great recording, Uhuru Afrika, a spectacular four-part suite composed by Weston, arranged by long-time collaborator Melba Liston, with lyrics by the great Harlem Renaissance poet, Langston Hughes. That album appeared when there were no such things as “world music”, and few jazz musicians were including elements of traditional African music into their recordings. A large scale concert presentation of the work will be held in New York tonight, featuring several musicians who appeared on the original recording, including percussionist Candido Camero and drummer Charlie Persip.
I spoke with Mr. Weston this week, and Podcast 193 is that conversation, along with a few choice muscial selections from his vast catalogue, including:
Randy Weston - "African Lady" from Uhuru Afrika. Before there was World Music, there was this groundbreaking album, still remarkably vibrant after 50 years. Maybe this "who's who" list of musicians had something to do with it: Clark Terry, trumpet, fluegelhorn; Benny Bailey, Richard Williams, Freddie Hubbard, trumpets; Slide Hampton, Jimmy Cleveland, Quentin Jackson, trombones; Julius Watkins, French horn; Gigi Gryce, alto saxophone, flute; Sahib Shihab, alto & baritone saxophone; Jerome Richardson, saxophones, piccolo, Budd Johnson, tenor saxophone, clarinet; Yusef Lateef, tenor saxophone, flute, oboe; Cecil Payne, baritone saxophone; Les Spann, flute, guitar; Kenny Burrell, guitar; Randy Weston; piano; George Duvivier, Ron Carter, basses; Max Roach, Charlie Persip, G.T. Hogan, drums; Babatunde Olatunji, African percussion; Candido Camero, congas; Armando Peraza, bongos,congasand vocalists Martha Flowers and Brock Peters. All arranged by the great Melba Liston. Whew!
Randy Weston - "Niger Mambo" from Highlife. Three years later, Weston and Ms. Liston collaborated again on a large ensemble work influenced by his visits to the African continent. Musicians include Ray Copeland, trumpet, fluegelhorn; Jimmy Cleveland, Quentin Jackson; trombone; Julius Watkins, French horn; Aaron Bell, tuba; Booker Ervin; tenor saxophone; Budd Johnson, soprano & tenor saxophones; Randy Weston, piano; Peck Morrison, bass; Charlie Persip, drums; Frankie Dunlop, drums, percussion; Archie Lee, congas, percussion; George Young, percussion.
Randy Weston African Rhythm Trio - "Portrait Of Frank Edward Weston" from Zep Tepi. Weston wrote this piece to honor his father, a man of whom Weston says "“My Dad gave me everything. He made me take piano lessons, and he gave me access to all that great music. And he was a great cook! I was really spoiled." The trio is Weston on piano, bassist Alex Blake and African-style percussionist Neil Clarke.
Randy Weston and his African Rhythms Sextet - "Hi Fly" from The Storyteller: Live at Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola. Weston's latest CD is a mix of new tunes and old favorites, like this jazz standard Weston originally recorded in the mid-50's. The band is Weston on piano, the late Benny Powell (in his last work with Mr. Weston, a favorite collaborator) on trombone, T.K. Blue on sax, Alex Blake on bass, Lewis Nash on drums, and Neil Clarke on percussion.
Weston's Uhuru Afrika 50th Anniversary Concert Celebration takes
place on Saturday, November 13 at 8PM at the BMCC Tribeca Performing Arts
Center 199 Chambers Street New York, NY 10007 Ticket prices:
$25, $35 & $45 (students and seniors save $10)