National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Master Randy Weston performed in Pittsburgh on Oct. 26, in the fall installment of Kente Arts Alliance’s Africa Calling Series.
Weston appeared with his African Rhythms Quintet featuring: Randy Weston (piano); TK Blue (reeds & flute); Alex Blake (bass); Neil Clarke (percussion) and Robert Trowers (trombone). This much anticipated concert took place at the New Hazlett Theater, on the North Side.
Randy Weston is an internationally renowned pianist, composer, bandleader and cultural ambassador whose compositions encompass the vast rhythmic heritage of Africa. Weston’s lifelong connection with African music and culture is due in large part to his father, Frank Edward Weston, who told his son that he was, “an African, born in America.” “He told me I had to learn about myself, about him and about my grandparents,” stated Weston, “And the only way to do it was I’d have to go back to the motherland one day.”
Weston’s interest in his roots was stimulated by extended stays in Africa. He visited Nigeria in 1961 and 1963, lived in Morocco from 1968 to 1973 following a tour, and has remained fascinated with the music and spiritual values of the continent ever since. In the ’70s, Weston made recordings for Arista-Freedom, Polydor, and CTI while maintaining a peripatetic touring existence—mostly in Europe—returning to Morocco in the mid-’80s.
Weston’s fascination with the music of Africa is evident on such works as 2003’s Spirit! The Power of Music, 2004’s Nuit Africaine and 2006’s Zep Tepi, the Randy Weston African Rhythms Trio. In 2010, Weston released the live album “The Storyteller” which featured the then 84-year-old pianist in concert at Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola, as part of Jazz at the Lincoln Center.
Weston is the subject of a 2010 publication: African Rhythm—The Autobiography of Randy Weston. Composed by Randy Weston, Arranged by Willard Jenkins.
Excerpt from the book: After contributing six decades of musical direction and genius, Weston remains one of the world’s foremost pianists and composers today, a true innovator and visionary.
Encompassing the vast rhythmic heritage of Africa, his global creations musically continue to inform and inspire.
“Weston has the biggest sound of any jazz pianist since Ellington and Monk, as well as the richest most inventive beat,” states jazz critic Stanley Crouch, “but his art is more than projection and time; it’s the result of a studious and inspired intelligence…an intelligence that is creating a fresh synthesis of African elements with jazz technique.”
African Rhythms is unlike anything I’ve ever read. Randy Weston, pianist, composer, bandleader, activist, visionary, and griot—takes the reader on a most spectacular spiritual journey from Brooklyn to Africa, around the world and back again. He tells a story of this great music that has never been told in print: tracing its African roots and branches, acknowledging the ancestors who helped bring him to the music and draw the music from his soul, singing praise songs for those artistic and intellectual giants whose paths he crossed, from Langston Hughes to Melba Liston, Dizzy to Monk, Marshall Stearns to Cheikh Anta Diop. Robin D.G. Kelley
Robin D.G. Kelley is the author of Africa Speaks, America Answers: Modern Jazz in Revolutionary Times. Weston is one of four artists who are featured in the text (Harvard University Press, Mar. 13, 2012.
This collective biography demonstrates how modern Africa reshaped jazz, how modern jazz helped form a new African identity, and how musical convergences and crossings altered the politics and culture of both continents. Kelley was on hand to introduce Weston at the concert.
(Kente Arts Alliance is a non-profit arts organization (501 (3) ©) that was established in 2007. Since then it has presented some of the music world’s most legendary performers including Pharoah Sanders, The Last Poets, and Louis Hayes and the Cannonball Adderley Legacy Band which was voted by the Post-Gazette as the Best Jazz Concert of 2006.)
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