R.I.P. Randy Weston | Ottawa Citizen

Pianist Randy Weston, a up to date of ’50s greats akin to Thelonious Monk — his best affect — and Wynton Kelly — his cousin — and a passionate advocate for connecting the sounds and tradition of Africa with jazz, died in his residence in Brooklyn on Sept. 1. He was 92.

The Brooklyn-raised musician first carried out within the 1940s with akin to friends as saxophonist Eddie “Cleanhead” Vinson, and he went on to work with such collaborators as trumpeter Kenny Dorham and, later, saxophonists Booker Ervin and Billy Harper. By the 1960s, Weston was embracing African influences in his music and life, and from 1967 to 1972, Weston even moved to Tangier, Morocco, the place he opened a music membership.

Weston’s cultural significance was such that the NAACP launched a press release this week that mourned his passing.

Weston launched his first album as a pacesetter in 1954 and his final in 2016. He recorded 50 albums, of which two — The Splendid Master Gnawa Musicians of Morocco and Tanjah had been nominated for Grammys. In 2001, Weston acquired the Jazz Masters award from the National Endowment for the Arts.

Among Weston’s contributions to the canon of jazz requirements are the tunes Hi-Fly, Little Niles and Berkshire Blues.

To my data, Weston performed in Ottawa simply as soon as within the final twenty years, on the 1999 Ottawa International Jazz Festival. Below is James Hale’s assessment of the live performance for the Citizen.


Keyboard grasp instructions consideration
The Ottawa Citizen
Mon Jul 19 1999
Page: D11
Section: Arts
Byline: James Hale
Source: The Ottawa Citizen

Last evening, National Gallery of Canada

Randy Weston, Min Xiao Fen

At age 73, pianist Randy Weston takes management of a room like royalty. He could not have been awarded a titular nickname like ”Count” or ”Duke” throughout his prolonged profession, however he has the bearing and presence of an African prince.

Two metres tall, he’s a bodily imposing man, however it’s his full mastery of the keyboard and his command of the language of jazz piano that calls for your consideration. Weston can be a particularly articulate spokesperson for his craft, and a passionate authority on varied people music of the world.

Holding court docket on the National Gallery of Canada yesterday, he took listeners on what he known as ”an expertise with the ancestors” — first to Africa via his solo piano taking part in after which to historic China via the work of his visitor, Min Xiao Fen.

Although Weston is most intently related to the music of Thelonious Monk and the opposite bop pioneers of the ’40s and early ’50s, his first piano affect was Duke Ellington. It was Ellington, Weston advised the viewers, who opened his ears to African music and to how the African heritage enriched the expertise of American blacks.

Weston started his portion of this system with Juan Tizol’s Caravan, which the Ellington Orchestra used as a springboard to discover African sonorities and rhythms. Combined with a brand new composition — E.Okay.E. — devoted to Ellington, the opening displayed Weston’s signature fashion of melding pianistic methods from throughout jazz historical past to create a seamless complete. So extremely developed is his conception that these pan-stylistic choices seldom sound like pastiches. Caravan started with darkish chords within the decrease register, spare and rumbling, then moved to a lighter, cascading part that illuminated Ellington’s hyperlink to ragtime music.

Ellington could have piqued Weston’s curiosity about Africa, however it was repeated journeys to the continent itself that eternally imbued Weston’s music with the spirit of his ancestors.

Of his many compositions influenced by his African sojourns maybe the most effective recognized is Blue Moses, which served as the premise for a prolonged medley. With the insistent, bass rhythm as bedrock, his improvisation mixed moments of nice serenity with tumultuous passages that surged with power.

For her solo portion of the present, Min additionally moved via historical past, starting with a standard lyrical Chinese piece from about AD 1000 and progressing to a up to date composition that nodded to John Cage. Throughout, Min displayed her virtuoso approach on the pipa, a big Chinese lute-like instrument with a tonality that alternates between a banjo and a National metal guitar.

While fairly, the normal Chinese music was stark and considerably sterile compared with the wealthy textures of Weston’s African medley. Closer to the motion and drama related to jazz was Min’s re-creation of a battle, full with jagged melodic and rhythmic collisions that may not sound misplaced in a Cecil Taylor solo piano work.

Likewise, the Cage-influenced piece — performed with a steel object looped into the strings as Cage would ”put together” a piano — moved nearer to avant garde jazz than the Chinese custom.

The thriller of how the fragile sound of the pipa would mix with the thunder of Weston’s piano was delayed via a clumsy pause in this system — throughout which many viewers members drifted away — and Weston’s prolonged tribute to Dizzy Gillespie.

When they did come collectively, on two items, the mixture of pipa and piano was not totally satisfying. During Weston’s The Shrine, Min sounded barely hesitant, as if she was afraid to push her instrument too laborious. Although the music’s five-note motif left her ample room to solo, Min was content material with sliding quick phrases and runs into slender areas. Finally, at Weston’s encouragement, she prolonged her traces extra.

Min’s composition The Shang was extra attention-grabbing, significantly when the mixture of the 2 devices created dissonances between the Western and Eastern scales.

No Weston live performance can be full with out some music by Monk, and the pianist obliged in his solo encore with a medley that tied a number of Monkian themes collectively. Weston’s success as a Monk interpreter lies in his means to play the knotty, unpredictable adjustments in his personal manner. As wealthy as Weston’s musical items are, ultimately it’s his means to speak — via his piano, his storytelling and his heat — that make him the person he’s.


Rest in peace, Randy Weston.

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