April In Cleveland: The Tri-C JazzFest
Although the Clayton Brothers would be featured with their own quintet for a 5 o’clock show, I decided to take a break in preparation for the return of the illustrious Randy Weston later in the evening. This would mark Weston’s third appearance at the festival and I rekindled fond memories of his previous stays in town. As far back as ten or twelve years ago, he had played a solo performance at a Sunday afternoon brunch that almost seemed like a private affair, a more recent offering saluting the contributions or trombonist and arranger Melba Liston just prior to her untimely death.
Fronting what he calls his African Rhythms Sextet, Weston brought with him regular collaborators T.K. Blue on saxophones and flute, Benny Powell on trombone, Alex Blake on bass, and Neil Clarke on percussion. As an added treat, prophetic tenor saxophonist Billy Harper filled out the front line. Several of Weston’s finest charts provided fodder for the evening, with T.K. Blue’s delicate flute work illuminating a darkly romantic “The Healers.” Alex Blake amazed everyone as he strummed his bass with great abandon, almost like caressing a guitar, throughout combustible solos in both “African Sunrise” and “Blue Moses.”
Weston had some fine moments of his own during a elegant medley of “Hi Fly” and “Body and Soul.” Harper, in what would be a rare appearance as a sideman and an even rarer one in Cleveland, combined his own deeply mystical outlook with Weston’s efforts to conjure the spirit and rhythms of ancient ancestors. It made for a profoundly rewarding musical experience that left an impact on an appreciative throng of admirers.
These highlights are just a few from the ambitious schedule that kept Cleveland jazz fans hopping this spring. For more information and to obtain a limited edition CD sampler featuring the music of various JazzFest 2002 artists, visit www.cleveland.com/jazzfest.
View the Cleveland Tri-C JazzFest photo gallery.