piano (not on 4)
Idrees Sulieman trumpet (on 2,3,5,6,7,9)
Dizzy Gillespie trumpet (on 9)
Benny Powell trombone
Talib Kibwe flute, alt sax
Billy Harper tenor sax (on 2,3,5,6,7,9)
Dewey Redman tenor sax (on 2,3,5,6,7,9)
Pharoah Sanders tenor sax, gaita (on 3 >8)
bass (on 2,3,5,6,7,8,9)
Jamil Nasser bass (on 2,3,4,5,6,8,9)
Idris Muhammad drums (on 2,3,5,6,7,8,9)
Azzedin Weston percussion (on 2,3,4,6,9)
Big Black percussion (on 3,5,6,7,8,9)
Yassir Chadly percussion, karkaba, vocal (on 4
Randy Weston arranger, producer,
Rhashidah E. McNeill Liner notes
Yassir Chadly arranger
Jean-Philippe Allard producer
Brian Bacchus producer
Talib Kibwe musical director
Jay Newland engineer
Joe Lopes assistant engineer
Cheung Ching Ming photography
Daniel Richard release preparation
1 African Village Bedford-Stuyvesant
2 The Healers (Weston)
3 African Cookbook (Weston)
4 La Elaha-Ella Allah / Morad Allah
5 The Call (Weston)
6 African Village Bedford-Stuyvesant 2
7 The Seventh Queen (Weston)
8 Blue Moses (Weston)
9 African Sunrise (Weston)
10 A Prayer for us all
THE SPIRITS Of OUR ANCESTORS
THE SPIRITS OF OUR ANCESTORS comes on the heels of pianist /composer,
Randy Weston's earlier trilogy of tributes, "Portraits,"
which was released in 1990 (Verve,
By sheer determination, extraordinary musicianship. and the vision of
Randy Weston, co-producers, Jean-Philippe Allard (PolyGram)
and Brian Bacchus (Antilles/Island)
and supporters like Jacques Muyal, "Spirits" takes its place, like a final
chapter or climax in the unwinding tale of a long journey.
Randy Weston, ”Spirit’” master storyteller, has been unwinding this tale
for over 35 years now. His never tiring listeners are in for the biggest
treat of all. "Spirits" is the tale to end all other tales of how the
music began and where It all comes from. "Spirits" is where you'll find
the real gems -no cubic zirconias here-- from the cast of all-star
musicians. including guest artist, Dizzy Gillespie: drummers, Big Black,
Idris Muhammad, Azzedin Weston; bassists, Jamil Nasser,
Alex Blake; guest artist, Pharoah Sanders; the horn section, Idrees
Talib Kibwe, Billy Harper.
Benny Powell, Dewey Redman; and Gnawa musician. Yassir Chadly to
"Spirits"' formidable composer/arranger male/female team, Randy Weston and
This is an important and exciting reunion for arranger.
especially. On this recording she reconnects with composer/pianist Randy
Weston and with Dizzy Gillespie.
For her and Randy, this is their first musical collaboration on a
recording since Melba suffered a stroke in the mid-80's, paralyzing her
right side. Miraculously. she has created these brilliant, awesome
arrangements for "Spirits" via computer music programming, proving her
courageousness. and diligence as an artist. Two other reissues that Randy
and Melba collaborated on "Uhuru
Afrika" and "Highlife"
have both become classics.
In fact, as pointed out by jazz critic, Stanley Crouch, Randy Weston and
may be the second longest lasting male-female composer/arranger team since
Andy Kirk and Mary Lou Williams!
Also, it was a true delight for Melba to hook up again with Dizzy (and he
with her). While Dizzy was playing his solo rendition on African
Sunrise, a composition originally written for him by Randy years ago,
Melba couldn't restrain her joy as the master trumpeter's frivolous notes
commingled with her effusion of elated giggles. It was her way of showing
her approval and her respect for this genius at work.
Ironically, though, her and Dizzy's relationship goes all the way back to
the 40's and 50's when she became the first woman to break into the
all-male horn sections of name bands -Gerald Wilson's, Count Basie's,
Quincy Jones', and of course, Dizzy Gillespie's as a female trombonist,
while simultaneously making a name for herself as a noteworthy
In 1958, she recorded her first album as a leader, "Melba Liston and Her
jazz (S) 1013)
flanked by six other trombonists. Her repertoire also includes work with
Clark Terry, Billie Holiday, Billy Eckstine, Motown Records and others.
She has also been instructor at Pratt Institute, New York, as well as
director for 5˝ years of African-American Music at the University of
THE SPIRITS OF OUR ANCESTORS, like "Portraits"
pays homage to our musical predecessors. However, any further similarity
is spare. Listeners are treated to yet another episode of rapture sans
boring repetitiousness. Creativity flourishes on this recording like rain
in a rain forest. While "Portraits"
were dedicated tributes to specific mentors, "Spirits" pays homage to the
global contributions of our Afrikan ancestors on whose shoulders we stand,
no matter what we do or what we create. We have a debt that we owe because
of those who came before us. "Spirits" also celebrates the universal magic
of the musical language -one that transcends race, color, nationality- one
that speaks to and is understood by the human spirit! "Spirits"
acknowledges that through music we can truly become one, if only for a
Originally, THE SPIRITS OF OUR ANCESTORS. was to be a culmination of
Randy's experiences culturally and musically, at least in part, in
Morocco. Randy and his co-producers had planned to record on location in
Morocco, with the Gnawa healer-musicians but. the occurrence of the Gulf
War, early in 1991, discouraged the idea.
It was the essence of what this recording meant, however, that kept
Randy's creative juices potent. in spite of the obstacles, and so he and
his fellow producers of "Spirits" began improvising. Randy. Brian and
Jean-Philippe decided the idea could still work in New York studios.
THE SPIRITS OF OUR ANCESTORS was partially supposed to be a collaboration
with the Gnawa musicians, the Black healers of Morocco brought there
hundreds of years ago from Sub-Sahara Africa.
Randy wanted to capture the authentic, traditional sounds and rhythms of
the Gnawa. He had lived with and learned from the masters of this
traditional Moroccan group for more than 20 years. resulting in his being
strongly influenced, as a composer, by the music of the Gnawa.
Because of this exposure to the culture and music of the Gnawa, Randy has
written and performed several compositions permeated by the Gnawa rhythm
and mysticism including Blue Moses, an adaptation of a traditional Gnawa
spiritual; also, The Healers, Tanjah, Ganawa in Paris, and others.
The concept of "Spirits" has since been broadened and brought to life by
the fourteen musicians extraordinaire! Although Weston fans will recognize
the names, and/or the rhythms to some or even most of the tunes. none of
the songs on this recording have ever been heard or played like this. And
the key here is
Melba Liston's fresh, unpredictable. piercing arrangements. She is
able to achieve raw emotion and rare beauty, a powerful complement to the
sheer force and flurry of Randy Weston's compositions. Her arrangements
challenged the best of these musicians to higher heights. For them it was
no easy task.
Sometimes, it was even frustrating as each tried, repeatedly, to play
unfamiliar notes to perfection. Yet, the final outcome was worth the
exhaustion. Each weary musician dragged himself out of the studio smiling
and shaking his head in wonder at the genius of this woman. She had put
them all to the test. And yet, they were grateful for the opportunity to
purge themselves; to not only play good music, but great music!
Rhashidah E. McNeill
ABOUT THE MUSIC
Village Bedford-Stuyvesant is that part of
Brooklyn where I grew up as a boy. It was the most popular part because
that's where most of the clubs were, the ballrooms. I lived there. That's
where my father's restaurant/luncheonette was in that area. So this song
is just a description of that special community of Black people from
different parts of the world--from the Caribbean, from the southern part
of the United States, from the West. For me it was like an African village
despite the fact that it was located in Brooklyn, New York.
The Healers In this song you have power, mysticism, simplicity,
gentility. This song evokes Images of ancient Egypt and Kush during their
most majestic times.
African Cookbook represents the diversity of African music and
African people, the potpourri of sounds and rhythms that we produce, the
different cultures, foods, arts that African people live in, cook, and
create. You can hear this diversity when you listen to each of the solos
of the musicians playing on this song. Each one has his own expression.
La Elaha-Ella Allah / Morad Allah of the songs of the Gnawa are
about God (Allah) and prayer. They're songs for spiritual and positive
upliftment and evolution. On this song Yassir Chadly does vocals for a
song of the traditional Gnawa playing Genbri, the karkaba, and hand claps
in the traditional Gnawa rhythm. Jamil Nasser plays the same bass line as
the Genbri, accompanied by Azzedin Weston on karkaba.
The Call One day all the Black and Brown people of Afrika will hear
this melody and they'll all come and gather and come home -to Mother
Afrika. Melba did a tremendous arrangement on this song; in fact, this may
be my favorite arrangement. She really captured the power. The rhythm that
Big Black plays here is called the Bata rhythm, a Yoruba rhythm -the beat
of the heart, a very spiritual, basic rhythm.
The Seventh Queen This song is an Afrikan blues but also represents
the blues everywhere.
Blue Moses This song Is an adaptation of a Gnawa spiritual. The
Gnawa believe that every person has a color and a note. Blue happens to be
the color of the saint of whom this song is about, thus. Blue Moses. Blue
is also the color that I responded to at a Gnawa ceremony. Pharoah
Sanders. guest artist. enhances the song's mystical quality with his own
brand of magic.
African Sunrise This Is a composition that I wrote originally for
Dizzy Gillespie. It's about the spiritual rise and evolution of Afrikan
people to a global society. This song has a Latin/Afrikan beat and the
reason for that is. it was written for Dizzy with Machito's band. in mind.
Dizzy played such a major role in introducing Cuban music into jazz.
Machito's band was Cuban. But it's still an Afrikan rhythm. This song also
reminds me of the huge, orange and red sun I used to see rising about 5:30
in the mornings in Tangier, when I lived in Morocco. That's part of it,
A Prayer for us all This composition was written as the last part
of a suite in the 70's. It simply means that no matter how much we plan,
how much we strategize, no matter how much we try to get It together we
really need to have a prayer. It's a prayer for all humanity and
everything that is confronting us.
1991 by Randy Weston as told to Rhashidah E. McNeill