PIANO MUSIC IS AS OLD AS THE PIANO which as an instrument, in variations
of its present form, dates back some 250 years. Millions of fingers have
rippled the keys since then. But not until Randy Weston put the enormous
hands of his six-foot-seven frame to the piano did exactly what happens in
his playing emerge from that ancient instrument. Weston's pianistics have
an individuality all their own.
When Randy plays, a combination of strength and gentleness, virility and
velvet emerges from the keys in an ebb and flow of sound seemingly as
natural as the waves of the sea. And like waves breaking against the
irregularity of a craggy coastline, there is a great variety of musical
sound over the steady pulse of a rhythmical tide, like the regularity of
sea touching shore.
Randy Weston says that his influences are American, African and Asian.
Weston was born and raised in Brooklyn, but his army service took him to
Asia where during World War 2 he was a supply sergeant in Okinawa and the
Philippines. His parentage is partly West Indian and -back a ways yet-
African. His environment is urban U.S.A.
His early jazz heroes were Fats Waller, Duke Ellington, then Thelonious
Monk, all giants of the piano in one way or another-all big yet delicate,
strong yet gentle in their treatment of the instrument. But Weston is like
none of these three when he makes his own music, often created in the
playing at the keyboard. His compositions are uniquely his own, and on
this record he plays entirely the music of Randy Weston.
These compositions are as much his own as are Niles and Pamela, his two
children for whom and about whom this music came into being. As arranged
for ensemble playing and performed now on this recording, it is music for
grownups to listen to with delight, and for children to grow up to
listening. All in three-quarter time, these charming little vignettes
escape rigidity of beat by a fluid flow of counter-rhythms and melodies,
one against another, that brings continuous delight.
Earth Birth is the gradual realization of the wide wonder of the
world as a child senses the way plants grow and sprout and wave up out of
the earth, the way rains come, the way sun shines upon the great big
roundness of our solid old earth. Here Melba Liston's trombone talks about
the warmth and vastness of it all.
Little Susan is musically concerned with a friend of Pam's - a
calypso child shaking calypso curls as she prances in a carnival of her
own imagining, dreaming up a street full of drums and drummers, parades
and dancers dancing down the pavement beneath a bright high sun.
Nice Ice, in contrast, is a cold gray day and spooky trees with
barren branches around a frozen pool where skaters glide, the nice ice
glistening and crackling beneath the blades of whirling, gliding, skating
skates. Fun in the winter wind! A skein of many skaters - and Johnny
Griffin's tenor sax is the wind that pushes the skaters round and round in
rhythmic counterpoint. One more time round and round!
Little Niles, the title piece of this album, is in abbreviated form
also a song for which Jon Hendricks has written descriptive lyrics that go
in part like this:
Every little boy in
And so much fun, Little Niles!
Half a man and half a child
And when he smiles
Like all children everywhere
He's living truth...
There are days
When his mischievous ways
Make you shout
And wear your patience out Ė
Still you know you'll stand
His every whim
Just because you see yourself
In him - Little Niles...
Pam's Waltz was
composed for Little Niles' sister who is eight, a year older than Niles,
and who likes to dance to her father's music. As a waltz it is not at all
traditional. But for a child it is wonderfully bright and melodic in its
exploration of a simple theme lovely to hear.
Babe's Blues is an overheard strain of the blues as it might stick
in a child's mind, repeat itself, be toyed with in musical thought, make
its own series of circles like a stone dropped in a pool of sound, into
the deep cool blueness of sound - down, down, down, down - George Joyner's
bass like a glossy round stone water-rocking down. Meanwhile Sulieman's
trumpet spreads its dreamy circles of sound.
Let's Climb a Hill becomes a child's ambling, rambling summertime
walk up a long lazy path that is sometimes quite steep, sometimes running
downhill only to run uphill again, sometimes hiding under leafy trees -
path of adventures, path of little thrills of a leafy lacework of tympani
sunshine and bass fiddle shade on a lyrical trip up a musical hill.
Modern tone poems, impressionistic pictures, cool tantalizers of the
imagination are these lyrically lovely compositions in sound created by
1959 Langston Hughes