Learn How

We need your help in 2018

Support All About Jazz All About Jazz is looking for readers to help fund our 2018 projects that directly support jazz. You can make this happen by purchasing ad space or by making a donation to our fund drive. In addition to completing every project (listed here), we'll also hide all Google ads and present exclusive content for a full year!

267

The Randy Weston African Rhythms Trio at Birdland

Martin Longley By

Sign in to view read count
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 trio that are all seeking to be percussionists, though only one of them officially inhabits that role. Neil Clarke sits surrounded by congas, with Weston choosing not to employ a conventional drummer, but bassist Alex Blake and the leader himself are almost equally concerned with rhythmic attack: the sharply struck string and the staccato pulse. The ensemble has become a regularly working unit, and it shows in their intuitively connected state throughout the evening's performance.

The African element exists as an attitude, a spiritual presence rather than an attempt to deliver authentic roots music from the continent, though Weston has in the past collaborated with, for instance, Moroccan Gnaoua master musicians. Curiously, there's a strong jazz standards foundation to the repertoire, and also a heavy ratio of African music as filtered through its later Latin manifestations. Weston isn't emphasizing his own strong songbook—though there's an early rendition of "African Sunrise"—but playing numbers by Machito and Ellington, highlighting the music's fusion of ethnicities. Indeed, Ellington-Tizol's "Caravan" is the set's centerpiece, an extended journey that allows each member to display his considerable wares.

This eclecticism does call attention to the trio's only problem, which is a tendency to be so democratic, so concerned with solo expression that each piece begins to break down into a series of almost completely isolated grandstands, which risks showcasing each soloist at the expense of the tune's overall momentum. Also, Blake and Clarke can't keep their mouths shut, vocalizing almost all the time as they solo. These voice- and-instrument couplings are technically well-managed, but perhaps overdone as the set progresses.

Tags

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read Jazztopad 2017: Concerts In Living Rooms Live Reviews Jazztopad 2017: Concerts In Living Rooms
by Martin Longley
Published: January 17, 2018
Read Lean On Me: José James Celebrates Bill Withers @ NYC Winter Jazzfest Live Reviews Lean On Me: José James Celebrates Bill Withers @ NYC...
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: January 15, 2018
Read Carl Bartlett, Jr. at Jazz At Kitano Live Reviews Carl Bartlett, Jr. at Jazz At Kitano
by Keith Henry Brown
Published: January 13, 2018
Read Kurt Rosenwinkel at Chris’ Jazz Café Live Reviews Kurt Rosenwinkel at Chris’ Jazz Café
by Victor L. Schermer
Published: January 2, 2018
Read Terence Blanchard at Christ Church Cranbrook Live Reviews Terence Blanchard at Christ Church Cranbrook
by Troy Dostert
Published: December 29, 2017
Read "We Four at Dazzle" Live Reviews We Four at Dazzle
by Geoff Anderson
Published: October 31, 2017
Read "Edgefest 2017: Give the Drummers Some, Part 2-2" Live Reviews Edgefest 2017: Give the Drummers Some, Part 2-2
by Troy Dostert
Published: October 30, 2017
Read "Diane Schuur at Birdland" Live Reviews Diane Schuur at Birdland
by Tyran Grillo
Published: November 20, 2017
Read "Karl Denson's Tiny Universe at Levitt Pavilion" Live Reviews Karl Denson's Tiny Universe at Levitt Pavilion
by Geoff Anderson
Published: September 1, 2017