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Cheik Tidiane Seck: Timbuktu: The Music of Randy Weston

Chris May By

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A well-intentioned tribute to the late pianist, composer and pioneer of Maghrebi jazz Randy Weston by the keyboard player Cheikh Tidiane Seck, Timbuktu: The Music of Randy Weston never really gets off the ground. Seck, whose c.v. includes spells with Mali's Super Rail Band de Bamako, Les Ambassadeurs, Salif Keita and Amadou & Mariam, and Senegal's Youssou N'Dour, is a funky player with a firm grip on desert blues, but he is an underwhelming arranger and soloist. The charts are pedestrian and neither Seck nor tenor saxophonists Yizih Yode and Manu Dibango get out of the grooves and take flight.

But the release of the album—the first in Paris-based label Komos' The Music Of series—does provide an excuse to plug a far more rewarding celebration of Weston's music: his own double album The Spirits Of Our Ancestors (Verve/Antilles, 1992). On it, Weston revisits eight of his best-loved pieces fronting a mid-sized ensemble arranged by his longtime friend, the trombonist and orchestrator Melba Liston. The pair first worked together on Weston's Little Niles (United Artists, 1959), and went on to collaborate on four more albums over the next fifteen years. The Spirits Of Our Ancestors was the first project Liston was well enough to work on following a stroke in 1985.

The band assembled by Weston and Liston is a choice assemblage of bop, hard bop and spiritual jazz A-listers, and is a meeting of old friends. It includes trumpeter Idrees Sulieman, who was part of the smaller group which recorded Little Niles three decades earlier. Dizzy Gillespie, whose big band Liston was a member of in the late 1940s, guests on "African Sunrise," which was written for him by Weston in 1983. The after effects of Liston's stroke meant she was unable to play trombone, so Benny Powell takes that place in the lineup. Also featured are alto saxophonist Talib Kibwe and tenor saxophonists Billy Harper, Dewey Redman and, guesting on "African Cookbook" and "Blue Moses, Pharoah Sanders. There are two bassists, Alex Blake and Jamil Sulieman Nasser. The drummer is Idris Muhammad and the percussionists are Big Black and Weston's son Azzedin. Other tracks include "The Healers," "The Call," African Village" and "The Seventh Queen."

Well worth sending a search party out for.

Track Listing: Tanjah; Ganawa (Blue Moses);Timbuktu; In Memory Of; African Cookbook: Ganawa (Blue Moses); Niger Mambo; Mr Randy.

Personnel: Cheikh Tidiane Seck: piano, Rhodes electric piano, Hammond organ, Moog synthesiser; Yizih Yode: tenor saxophone; Manu Dibango: tenor saxophone (3, 5); Ali Wage: flute (3); Mohamed Hafsi: double bass; Marque Gilmore: drums; Adama Dembele: percussion; Abd Al Malik: vocals (3).

Title: Timbuktu: The Music of Randy Weston | Year Released: 2019 | Record Label: Komos

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