Randy Weston has long been an important and highly original pianist and
composer within musicians' circles. This album, which Randy produced and
released himself in limited edition, is among his finest works and has
become a valuable collectors' item among those of us who have known of its
1972 Michael Cuscuna
Africa, the cradle of
civilization, is my ancestral home, the home of my spirit and my soul.
Africa has always been part of me, and I knew I'd have to go there sooner
or later. In 1961 I finally did and again in 1963, both times to Nigeria.
Then my sextet and I toured fourteen countries in West and North Africa in
1967, and in 1968 I went back to stay; Iíve been living in Tangier, Morocco
For me, the most compelling aspect of African culture, North, South, East
and West, is its music, magnificent in its diversity, with the "true
drums" - African rhythms - always at heart. The music of no other
civilization can rival that of Africa in the complexity and subtlety of
its rhythms. All modern music, no matter what it's called - jazz, gospel,
Latin, rock, bossa nova, calypso, samba, soul, the blues, even the
"freedom" music of the avant-garde - is in debt to Africa rhythms
The album, especially the composition African Cookbook, is in very heavy
debt; to Africa. The melody evokes North Africa and the rhythms come from
all over Africa. I knew the rhythms were African, of course, but I didn't
realize how universally African they were until the 1967 tour when
Africans in nearly every I country we visited claimed the rhythms in
Cookbook as their own, as typical of Ghana or Gabon or Upper Volta or
Morocco or wherever. That's pretty heavy!
AFRICAN COOKBOOK is dedicated to my musical family, which consists of
many, many people all over the world, and to my "real" family: my
remarkable father and mother and my extraordinary children. The part of my
musical family that has been closest to me is heard on this album,
recorded in 1964. This band was made up of some beautiful men, and I'd
like to say something about | each of them.
BOOKER ERVIN is no longer with us physically, but he is stilt with us
spiritually. He will live in musical memory as long as his playing can be
heard, with its vitality, strength, power, its tenderness and poignancy.
He was a unique creative artist, greatly missed by us all. African
Cookbook was named for Booker - his sound always reminds me of North
Africa. I wrote Portrait Of Vivian for my mother, but it wasn't really
"created" until Booker played it and left us a masterpiece of the tenor
saxophone, a classic.
RAY COPELAND and I played together in our very early days in Brooklyn,
many years ago, and we've played and recorded together many times since,
and traveled through Africa together. Ray is a brilliant trumpeter,
flugelhornist and arranger; his artistry on this album is a perfect
example of his flawless technique and depth.
BIG BLACK is a master drummer, singer and lyricist - an incredible talent.
His rhythms on the conga drums gave our performances the essential African
beat and inspired my son Azzedin to play congas. Black was and is a major
influence in bringing African rhythms to American music.
VISHNU WOOD is a strong creative musician who has developed his own
distinctive style on bass and is certainly one of the outstanding bassists
in music today. We've traveled and lived together in Africa too. Listen
especially to Vishnu's bass line on Cookbook; it's a rhythmic trip and
sets the tone for the whole outing.
LENNY MCBROWNE. another Brooklynite I've known since way back, is a
beautiful, fine drummer with superb taste. He's a natural musician with a
steady swinging beat and the sensitivity and responsiveness that is so
necessary in a drummer.
SIR HAROLD MURRAY is an excellent conga drummer who switched to special
percussion for this date, playing a wonderful instrument made of wood and
donated by Big Black. He's a very important part of the rich, rhythmic
background on this album.
This band (except for Sir Harold) - this family - worked together for
about three years, and we made this record just before we disbanded. We
all grew together in those years of sharing soul and beauty and
struggling, we learned from each other and inspired each other, and part
of that precious experience is here.
1972 Randy Weston