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CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Randy Weston: Blue Moses

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Brooklyn-born, six-foot-seven octogenarian pianist/composer Randy Weston has literally been a larger-than-life jazz force for six decades: his percussive pianism was forged from a distinguished keyboard continuum, ranging from Duke Ellington and Thelonious Monk to John Lewis; his “Little Niles" and “Hi-Fly" are well-worn jazz standards; and the pianist may well be the greatest exponent of the African roots of America's classical music. Weston lived in Morocco in the 1960s and '70s, opened a jazz club there, and was virtually a one-man jazz ambassador--particularly to the enigmatic Ganawa (also spelled Gnawa), a black brotherhood of healers that claims ancient Egyptian ancestry, ...

EXTENDED ANALYSIS

Randy Weston: Blue Moses

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Randy WestonBlue MosesCTI Masterworks2011 (1972) Sony's program of reissues from CTI--the label set up by producer Creed Taylor in the late 1960s, post Impulse!, which he also founded, and post Verve, where he had moved on leaving Impulse!--continues with one of the brightest jewels in the CTI vaults. Like the sixteen discs which Sony have already reissued, pianist and composer Randy Weston's Blue Moses has not previously been released on CD in the US or Europe (though there was a 2006 Japanese issue). Like the 1972 LP, it ...

EXTENDED ANALYSIS

Randy Weston African Rhythms Sextet:The Storyteller

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Randy Weston African Rhythms SextetThe StorytellerMotema Records2010 It's almost fifty years since pianist/composer Randy Weston first played in Africa and he has returned many times since--three times alone this year, 2010--absorbing the endless rhythms and colors of the mother continent. Perhaps more than any of his contemporaries Weston has delved into the African roots of jazz, extolling the beauty and richness of African culture and making the connection between past and present. The Storyteller, a wonderfully intimate live recording, is the first African Rhythms quintet (plus guest drummer Lewis Nash) recording since ...

INTERVIEWS

Randy Weston: African Stories, African Rhythms

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In over 60 years as a leader, pianist Randy Weston has achieved an incredible amount. He has recorded nearly 50 albums and has been hailed in the process as the natural heir to Duke Ellington and Thelonious Monk. Three times he has been voted Downbeat's composer of the year, and his compositions have been recorded by the likes of Ahmad Jamal, Cannonball Adderley, Roland Kirk, Dexter Gordon, Abbey Lincoln, Abdullah Ibrahim and Jimmy Heath amongst others. In 2001, his significance in the jazz world was officially recognized when he joined an elite group of musicians designated as NEA Jazz Masters. ...

BOOK REVIEWS

The Autobiography of Randy Weston: African Rhythms

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The Autobiography of Randy Weston: African RhythmsRandy Weston / Willard JenkinsHardcover; 344 pagesISBN: 978-0-8223-4784-2Duke University Press2010 It's hard to think of another jazz musician who has promoted the African roots of jazz with quite the missionary zeal of pianist Randy Weston. Weston's African consciousness was awakened by his father, who taught his son that he was an African in Brooklyn. As this autobiography demonstrates, Weston's musical journey--indeed his entire philosophy--has been conditioned by this identity. Based on interviews conducted by Willard Jenkins over four years, this first ...

LIVE REVIEWS

The Randy Weston African Rhythms Trio at Birdland

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The Randy Weston African Rhythms Trio Birdland New York, New York October 3, 2007

The extremely tall Weston hunkers over his dwarfed piano, looking years younger than his eight decades ought to allow. He's in relaxed mode for this intimate late-night gathering on the opening night of his residency. The African experience has been central to the Brooklynite Weston's musical life from a very early point, even though it took him a while to actually steep himself in the continent's culture.

This is the smallest manifestation of Randy's African Rhythms concept, a ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Randy Weston & His African Rhythms Trio: Zep Tepi

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Randy Weston returns to the trio format for the first time in over thirty years with Zep Tepi. Poised to enter his eighth decade on the planet, Weston is an elder in every sense of the term. His distinctively percussive attack, yard-wide chords, criss-crossing rhythms and idiosyncratic melodies remain sui generis. Both literally (he's 6'9") and figuratively, Weston is a giant of the music.

He pays tribute to his friend and mentor Thelonious Monk on “Ballad for T," a reflective but vinegary solo piano performance that nods to “Ruby, My Dear." Ancestral spirits are afoot throughout, from the Gnawa people ...

LIVE REVIEWS

27th Annual Tri-C JazzFest

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Now in its 27th season, Cleveland's Tri-C JazzFest continues to balance artistic and financial considerations with a line-up this year that placed an emphasis on piano jazz. Much lamented was the absence of Latin Jazz night, a popular mainstay of the festival for several years now, which has become a separate event staged in the fall. In its place were several acts destined for crossover appeal including performances by Diane Schuur with the Caribbean Jazz Project, Yellowjackets, Béla Fleck and the Flecktones, and The Manhattan Transfer. Missing too were those bold shows that have previously tapped the repertoire of a ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Randy Weston's African Rhythms Trio: Zep Tepi

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There's no better argument for the notion that jazz keeps you young than Randy Weston. Appearing last month at the Blue Note in support of Zep Tepi, the Brooklyn-born Weston showed that at eighty he remains one of the most vital and creative forces in jazz, as well as one of its most charismatic figures. Zep Tepi is a trio effort that revisits some of Weston's most popular and enduring compositions. While the fare is well known--including old favorites like “Berkshire Blues, “Hi Fly and an ecstatic take on “African Sunrise --the performances are fresh, highlighting the ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Randy Weston: Spirit! the Power Of Music

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With Randy Weston’s longtime involvement with African music and culture, it seems odd he has recorded so little with traditional African ensembles. While percussion masters like Babatunde Olantunje have augmented his groups, his guest appearance on the Musicians of Morocco’s 1992 Seventh Splendid Master Gnawa marked one of the few times Weston worked with traditional African musicians in context.

The domestic release of Spirit! The Power of Music begins to correct that oversight. Recorded live in 1999 with longtime collaborators Alex Blake, Benny Powell, Talib Kibwe, and Neil Clarke, the African Rhythm Quartet shares the stage with Gnawa Musicians of ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Randy Weston: Spirit! The Power of Music

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One name is just not enough, and neither is one culture. The full performance credits for Spirit! reflect this record's international cast and bode well for its outcome. Jazz piano icon and longtime African music devotee Randy Weston may formally lead the date (recorded live in September 1999), but his African Rhythms Quartet plays more than a supporting role. Each of these artists takes the stage in a forward fashion in both duet and group settings.

Two separate trios of Gnawa master musicians from Morocco also take part, one from Tanger and one from Marrakech. For listeners not familiar with ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Randy Weston: Mosaic Select 4

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Through all the changes that have characterized pianist Randy Weston's career, one common thread has tied everything together. In the context of large groups, vocalists, trios, solos, African percussion ensembles, and many other permutations, Weston has always emphasized the connections that relate his music to the jazz continuum (and, of course, emphasizing his own vision of such). His embrace of different modes of expression has paid off over the years with a number of great records that embody vastly different sonorities.

This most recent addition to Mosaic's limited edition Select series bundles five early Weston releases from 1957-63, plus half ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Randy Weston African Rhythms Quintet: Spirit! The Power of Music

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Ever since Ornette Coleman and journalist Robert Palmer ventured to Joujouka in the late 1970s, traditional Moroccan musicians have had sporadic, generally fruitful meetings with American jazzmen. Many of those projects -- Coleman’s Dancing In Your Head and Pharoah Sanders’ Trance of the Seven Colors come straight to mind -- have leaned heavily towards the traditional instruments, with the jazzmen rather floating above it all. Weston has crafted something closer to his usual brand of Africa-deep jazz and made room for the Gnawas within that context. What he ends up with on this live date is a more Western-accessible form ...

INTERVIEWS

A Fireside Chat with Randy Weston

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In my youth, a television news magazine aired a feature on how the map of the world we, as kids, were taught in school was in fact, biased. In reality, Europe and America are not nearly as vast as they seem in the Thomas Guide and Africa and Asia, not nearly as insignificant. South Africa, for instance, is nearly twice the size of Texas and has a stock exchange that is among the largest in the world. But South Africa, even with pop culture's politically correct fondness of Mandela, is a world away. To history, it must even be farther. ...



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