BLUES TO AFRICA
1974, the year of Randy Weston's debut in Europe, audiences in France,
Switzerland, Sweden, Norway and Spain were treated to an expose of
Afro-American music, played in Randy's own powerful style. Musically and
historically, Randy has always had a strong African influence in his
music; he refers to it as being African Rhythms rather than the more
popular description jazz.
Randy was born and grew up in Brooklyn, New York. He was a member of "The
Club" which thrived there in the fifties; it was the home of such notables
as Max Roach, Cecil Payne and Duke Jordan. ''The Club" was a non-organized
group of musicians who wanted to make some changes to the business,
relating to attitudes to the musicians and their music. Their basic aim
was to rescue Black Music from the "finger snapping, freaked out" category
that it had always been put into by society; they read, talked and
listened to theories pertaining to their music and heritage. They began a
fight for dignity and free expression in which they are to this day
In 1961 Randy made his first trip to Africa by way of a Festival aimed at
exchanging Black American ideas and music with those of the African. This
ten day event took place in Lagos, Nigeria and was the scene of
performances by Nina Simone, Brock Peters and
amongst others. In 1963 Randy went again to Africa on a lecture tour with
the black painter Elton Fox, touring Universities and Schools in Nigeria.
Four years later after a fourteen country tour with his sextet in North
and West Africa he received an invitation from the people of Morocco and
subsequently moved to Tangier with his family for a stay of several years.
Randy has been writing music about Africa since 1955, the year of his
first composition entitled Zulu. His recordings of African music have
varied in format, from a sextet in
African Cookbook, an Orchestra in
which he was nominated for a Grammy Award in the category of Best
Performance by a Big Band 1974)
and now Blues to Africa, his first in what he hopes will be a series of
Solo Piano albums.
In this record, he has woven a spell; created a montage of
colors and of rhythms - African rhythms.
African Village/Bedford Stuyvesant Randy was struck by the
similarity of Black people, that he could travel all over the world from
Brooklyn and still see a face which reminded him of someone he knew or had
seen before. The feeling was the same -that warmth, that soulful
magic and drama re-enacted all over the world. So African Village is that
smiling, soulful, woman in Dakar or Bedford Stuyvesant saying ''Good
morning", no matter who you are....
Tangier Bay was written by Randy in 1970, in praise of the beauty
of the city of Tangiers, and its bay. The house where Randy lived at that
time boasted a tower, and sat on a hill. It was from there that Randy used
to sit whenever he could and watch the sun come up over the city. ''The
colors were so brilliant, it was like a movie'' said Randy. So, the music
in Tangier Bay paints a picture of the Medina, the beaches with shiny
white sand and the bay itself.
Blues To Africa was arranged by
Melba Liston. Melba and Randy have a lot of history together and
whenever possible, Randy gets a great deal of enjoyment out of working
with Melba (as she did in his album Tanjah). In Blues To Africa, the real
subject is not the obvious-the slave markets, the ripping off of a
continent, but the history. A lament for all the people dead, ancient
tribes lost, a description of the beauty of its people.
Kasbah Kids Randy says ''The kids in Tangier are really fantastic.
I have had the experience of seeing children anywhere from eight years old
speak five or six languages, and the dialect as well! Whenever I walked in
the Kasbah or the Medina, the children were freedom. It was a superb
mixture of symphonic instrumentation and African Rhythms.
The Call was first performed by Randy at the
Monterey Festival in 1966. It is a spiritual, a signal for unity: for
togetherness. Randy felt that when he wrote The Call that it would become
his signature, the final note in what he was trying to say in his music.
It was his vision that at some point in his career by playing it, he would
be joined by other musicians in one everlasting jam....
Kucheza Blues is the final movement of
Uhuru Africa. The Kucheza is for the day when freedom has Finally
come, when Black people all over the world, Africa, the United States, the
Caribbean, South America wherever a black, brown, or beige skin exists,
will have their bondage lifted. The party on that day will be rejoicing
Sahel The Sahel
is an area of Africa which is always saying, "Hey Man, what's happening!
Or give me some skin. . . ." Randy's expertise in playing the piano is
obvious in this tune as he plays fast and well, the double melody.
Uhuru Kwanza (Freedom): a composition of Randy's that was part of
his very first suite called
Uhuru Afrika. Kwanza is the first movement and it means for the
African people Freedom.
Uhuru Afrika was presented by Randy at the Philharmonic Hall in
Lincoln Center in New York City, February 1973 as the climax to Black
History Week. Uhuru was performed with the New World Symphony Orchestra,
and several musicians that Randy picked in order to keep the feeling of
undergoing extreme famine and drought; millions of people have died and
will continue to do so if help is not soon incoming. In October 1973 Randy
along with several interested artists and clergymen formed a committee to
raise money for the people of the Sahel. Because they were Africans and
because they were creative they decided to give a concert and allow other
performers to contribute; this was done one Sunday at the Church of St
John The Divine in New York City. So Randy writes this music to remember
and remind those who know and are of the Sahel that it desperately needs
The music of Blues To Africa and Randy's imaginative and sensitive style
as a pianist make his first solo album a really memorable and moving
1975 Cheryll Weston