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Randy Weston: African Stories, African Rhythms

By Published: November 8, 2010
AAJ: One of the reasons that you left the States and moved to North Africa in the late '60s was due to your disillusionment with the music scene, and you mention the avant-garde and the incursion of electronics, which you describe as the opposite of what black music was all about. What's your feeling about the black music scene today?

RW: We don't have the media. There's no appreciation for the giants; there's never been a major film on Duke Ellington, never a major film on Louis Armstrong. What they accomplished, we could never accomplish today. The good thing about segregation was this: we had our own black movies, our own black theater, so as kids we'd go to the theater and see Bessie Smith
Bessie Smith
Bessie Smith
1894 - 1937
or Dorothy Donnegan, or see Cab Calloway
Cab Calloway
Cab Calloway
1907 - 1994
or Jimmy Rushing in the movies. But young people don't have that today, and what's happening now is lightweight compared to what happened before. If Louis Armstrong was alive today, he'd be a superstar. If Art Tatum
Art Tatum
Art Tatum
1909 - 1956
was alive today, my god, all the piano players would get on their knees. So that's what's missing today; we've been cut off from our heritage.

AAJ: You've played in a number of unique settings during your career—you've played in Japanese shrines, you've played in Canterbury Cathedral and a few years ago you played the new Library of Alexandria...

RW: We opened the new Library of Alexandria with bassist James Brandon Lewis
James Brandon Lewis
James Brandon Lewis
sax, tenor
. We played my composition "The Three Pyramids and the Sphinx," from my CD Saga (Verve/Gitanes, 1995).

AAJ: Does one place more than any other you've played hold special memories for you?

RW: They all have special memories for me. They were not the Five Spot, if you know what I mean [laughs]. I've been blessed to be able to have these experiences.

AAJ: Is there still one particular spiritual place you would like to perform at?

RW: I want to see every country in Africa. I want to experience all the traditional music of Africa, if I could. I've been to Africa twice already this year, and I go back again in December. I go to Africa as much as I can. When I go to Africa, I go to school. The people teach me things about traditional music which is...mind-blowing.

AAJ: It's four years since your last recording. Do you have any plans to record again with your African Rhythms band?

RW: We've got a recording out the beginning of November called The Storyteller (Motema Music, 2010). Luckily, we were able to record our performance at Dizzy's Club at Lincoln Center in December. I had the quintet with Lewis Nash
Lewis Nash
Lewis Nash
. It's Benny Powell's last recording and it's so beautiful.

Selected Discography

Randy Weston and His African Rhythms Sextet, The Storyteller (Motema Music, 2010)

Randy Weston and His African Rhythms Trio, Zep Tepi (Random Chance Records, 2006)

Randy Weston, African Rhythms (Comet Records, 2002)

Randy Weston, Ancient Future (Mutable Records, 2002)

Randy Weston, Solo, Duo & Trio (Fantasy Jazz, 2000)

Randy Weston African Rhythm Quintet & the Gnawa Master Musicians of Morocco, Spirit! The Power of Music (Sunnyside Records, 1999)

Randy Weston, Khepera (Verve, 1998)

Randy Weston,How High the Moon (Biograph Records, 1998)

Randy Weston, Saga (Verve/Gitanes, 1995)

Randy Weston, The Spirit of Our Ancestors (Verve, 1991)

Randy Weston, Caravan: Portraits of Duke Ellington (Verve, 1989)

Randy Weston, Rhythms and Sounds (Cora, 1978)

Randy Weston, African Nite (Universal, 1975)

Randy Weston, Blues to Africa (Freedom, 1974)

Randy Weston, Tanjah (Verve, 1973)

Randy Weston, Niles Littlebig (Comet, 1969)

Randy Weston, Berkshire Blues (Black Lion, 1965)

Randy Weston, Highlife (Colpix, 1963)

Randy Weston, Uhuru Afrika (Roulette, 1960)

Randy Weston, Destry Rides Again (United Artists, 1959)

Randy Weston, Little Niles (United Artists, 1958)

Randy Weston, The Randy Weston Trio (Riverside, 1955)

Randy Weston, Cole Porter in a Modern Mood (Riverside, 1954)

Photo Credits
Top / Page 1: Jose Horna Page 2: Maria Echeverria

Page 3: Jonathon Curiel

Page 4: Brian O'Connor

Page 5: C. Andrew Hovan

Page 6: Courtesy of Randy Weston
Randy Weston
Randy Weston

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