Randy Weston

biography

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After contributing six decades of musical direction and genius, Randy 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".

Press Photos
      Photo by Carol Friedman
 

 Autobiography "African Rhythms">>>


Randy Weston's latest recordings:
 

The Roots of the Blues, Randy Weston and Billy Harper's long partnership has culminated in their first duo recording. (JJA Jazz Award - Duo of the year 2014)
 

The Storyteller, Weston's first recording with the whole African Rhythms ensemble since 2002. Recorded live at Jazz at Lincoln Center's Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola, the set features drummer Lewis Nash with members of Weston's regular quintet: trombonist Benny Powell; alto saxophonist TK Blue; bassist Alex Blake; and percussionist Neil Clarke.
 

Zep Tepi, his first trio album in many years. The 10 songs on this album reflect the arc of his musical journey from: old favorites to new works
 

Randy Weston Live in St. Lucia. A live registration of the Randy Weston African Rhythms Quintet
 

Ancient Future is a 2 disc solo piano recording that combines 16 solo piano recordings with 7 solo piano recording from 1984 that was released as Blue on 1750 Arch Records produced by Thomas Buckner. Ancient Future is a meditation on music's origins.
"I thought about Osiris," Weston recalled, "when he was assigned to teach man about civilization and he used music to do it."
Spare, contemplative, " Ancient Future " is evocative of William Grant Still's "Africa
(A Poem for Orchestra in Three Movements - 1928)".

The 1990's witnessed a string of recordings on Verve Records
that exhibit Randy Weston’s pioneering musical aspiration.
 

SPIRIT! The power of music 1999, Randy Weston African Rhythms Quintet and the master Gnawa musicians of Morocco was released. "What was so wonderful was that we had these three religions, Christianity, Islam and Yoruba, in music and the church was just packed with people. It was so spiritual, all this wonderful music together. So it was quite, quite the evening, one I’ll never forget.”
 

Khepera saw the release in 1998, in which Randy Weston makes the connection between African and Chinese music,
 

Earth Birth saw the release in 1997, featuring Randy Weston with The Montreal String Orchestra.
 

In 1996, Saga saw the release of the critically acclaimed recording.
 
 

Volcano Blues in 1993, Randy Weston teams up with long-time collaborator Melba Liston and criss-crosses the Atlantic chronicling the originations and destinations of the genre of African-American Music.
 

The Splendid Master Gnawa musicians of Morocco was recorded in 1992, Never in the history of Moroccan culture have their ever been nine hag'houges (guinbres) together with two percussionists.  Each master sang his own song; after each one finished another continued.  It was a historic moment.
 
 Randy Weston's musical odyssey is another installment in an already amazing body of work. 
 

In 1991, he told the story of the roots of the blues on   Spirits of our Ancestors.  The 2CD set was hailed for its concept as well as its musicianship.
Robert Palmer wrote in Rolling Stone, "SPIRITS! is the kind of 'jazz' record that, like Miles' KIND OF BLUE, connects with anyone who hears it.  Listen up".
more >>

 

The culmination of Randy Weston’s rich musical offerings has resulted in the following awards:
 
In 2014  Doris Duke Award  2014 Jazz  
In 2013  New England Conservatory of Music, honored him with the degree "Doctor of Music" 
In 2012  Colby College honored him with the degree "Doctor of Music"
In 2011  Fellow by the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation  
In 2011  Moroccan King Mohammed VI's Honor - f
or his commitment to Morocco's Gnawa Music Tradition
In 2009
 Randy Weston was added to the "ASCAP Jazz Wall of Fame
"
In 2006  Brooklyn College honored him with the degree "Doctor of Music"
In 2003  New York University honored him with two weeks artist-in-residence and tribute concert
In 2001  He received the Jazz Masters Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts
In 2000  He received the Arts Critics and Reviewers Ass. of Ghana, Black Music Star Award
In 1999
 Harvard University honored him with a 1 week residency and tribute concert
In 1997  He received The French Order Of Arts And Letters
In 1995  The Montreal Jazz Festival gave him a 5 night tribute.
In 1999, 1996 and 1994 he also won Composer of the year from Downbeat Magazine


Randy Weston, born in Brooklyn, New York in 1926, didn't have to travel far to hear the early jazz giants that were to influence him. Though Weston cites Count Basie, Nat King Cole, Art Tatum, and of course, Duke Ellington as his other piano heroes, it was Monk who had the greatest impact.  "He was the most original I ever heard," Weston remembers.  "He  played  like  they  must  have  played  in  Egypt  5000  years  ago."

Randy Weston’s first recording as a leader came in 1954 on Riverside Records  Randy Weston plays Cole Porter -  Cole Porter in a modern mood   It was in the 50's when Randy Weston played around New York with Cecil Payne and Kenny Dorham that he wrote many of his best loved tunes, "Saucer Eyes," "Pam's Waltz," "Little Niles," and, "Hi-Fly."   His greatest hit, "Hi-Fly," Weston (who is 6' 8") says, is a "tale of being my height and looking down at the ground.


 Photo by Ariane Smolderen
 
 

Randy Weston has never failed to make the connections between African and American music. His dedication 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 and about him and about my grandparents," Weston said in an interview, "and the only way to do it was I'd have to go back to the motherland one day."

In the late 60's, Weston left the country.  But instead of moving to Europe like so many of his contemporaries, Weston went to Africa.  Though he settled in Morocco, he traveled throughout the continent tasting the musical fruits of other nations.  One of his most memorable experiences was the 1977 Nigerian festival, which drew artists from 60 cultures.  "At the end," Weston says, "we all realized that our music was different but the same, because if you take out the African elements of bossa nova, samba, jazz, blues, you have nothing..........
To me, it's Mother Africa's way of surviving in the new world."

 


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