Academic journal article Journal of Pan African Studies

Randy Weston, D.M

Academic journal article Journal of Pan African Studies

Randy Weston, D.M

Article excerpt

"I am truly blessed to have heard and spent so much time with the masters of our music during my rich cultural life of music. I am grateful to be a part of a great spiritual legacy. Thanks to the ancestors and the great musicians who have inspired me. Thank you very much."

--Randy Weston

Pianist, composer, bandleader and lecturer Randy Weston (born April 6, 1926) has spent most of his career combining the rich music of the African continent with the African-American tradition of jazz, mixing rhythms and melodies into a hybrid musical composition.

Weston received his earliest education from private teachers in a household that nurtured his budding musicianship. Growing up in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood in the central portion of the New York City borough of Brooklyn, Weston was influenced by such peers as saxophonist Cecil Payne and trumpeter Ray Copeland as well as the steady influx of great jazz musicians who frequented Brooklyn clubs and jam sessions on a regular basis. Such musicians as Thelonious Monk (1917-1982) and Duke Ellington (1899-1974) would have a lasting influence on Weston's music, both in terms of his piano playing and composition.

After a 1945 stint in the U.S. Army, Weston began playing piano with such rhythm-and-blues bands as Bull Moose Jackson (1919-1989) and Eddie "Cleanhead" Vinson (1917-1988). At the Music Inn educational retreat in Lenox, Massachusetts, in 1954, he took work as a cook during the summer, while playing the piano at night. The head of Riverside Records, Orrin Keepnews, heard him and signed Weston to do a record of Cole Porter standards.

Weston's recording sessions frequently included contributions from his Brooklyn buddies Copeland, Payne, and bassist Ahmed Abdul-Malik (1927-1993). It was at this early juncture that he also began his long and fruitful musical partnership with trombonist-arranger Melba Liston (1926-1999), a relationship that would continue until her death in 1999, forming some of Weston's best recordings.

Weston's interest in the Africa was sparked at an early age by his father's interest in the philosophy and work of Marcus Garvey (1887-1940), and thus he lectured and performed on the continent in the early 1960s. He toured 14 African nations with his ensemble in 1967 on a U.S. State Department tour, eventually settling in Rabat, Morocco. He later moved to Tangier, opening the African Rhythms Club in 1969. It was in Morocco that Weston first forged unique collaborations with Berber and Gnawan musicians, infusing his jazz with African music and rhythms.

Since returning to the U.S. in 1972, he has lived in Brooklyn, traveling extensively overseas with bands that generally include trombonist Benny Powell (1930-2010) and longtime musical director, saxophonist Talib Kibwe (aka T.K. Blue). In recent years, a number of Weston's U. …

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