The pianist, composer, and bandleader Randy Weston is one of the world’s most influential jazz musicians and a remarkable storyteller whose career has spanned five continents and more than six decades. Packed with fascinating anecdotes, African Rhythms is Weston’s life story, as told by him to the music journalist Willard Jenkins. It encompasses Weston’s childhood in Brooklyn’s Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood—where his parents and other members of their generation imbued him with pride in his African heritage—and his introduction to jazz and early years as a musician in the artistic ferment of mid-twentieth-century New York. His music has taken him around the world: he has performed in eighteen African countries, in Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines, in the Canterbury Cathedral, and at the grand opening of the Bibliotheca Alexandrina: The New Library of Alexandria. Africa is at the core of Weston’s music and spirituality. He has traversed the continent on a continuous quest to learn about its musical traditions, produced its first major jazz festival, and lived for years in Morocco, where he opened a popular jazz club, the African Rhythms Club, in Tangier.
Weston’s narrative is replete with tales of the people he has met and befriended, and with whom he has worked. He describes his unique partnerships with Langston Hughes, the musician and arranger Melba Liston, and the jazz scholar Marshall Stearns, as well as his friendships and collaborations with Duke Ellington, Dizzy Gillespie, Coleman Hawkins, Thelonious Monk, Billy Strayhorn, Max Roach, Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, the novelist Paul Bowles, the Cuban percussionist Candido Camero, the Ghanaian jazz artist Kofi Ghanaba, the Gnawa musicians of Morocco, and many others. With African Rhythms, an international jazz virtuoso continues to create cultural history.
About the Author
Randy Weston is an internationally renowned pianist, composer, and bandleader living in Brooklyn, New York. He has made more than forty albums and performed throughout the world. Weston has been inducted into the ASCAP Jazz Wall of Fame, designated a Jazz Master by the National Endowment for the Arts, and named Jazz Composer of the Year three times by DownBeat magazine. He is the recipient of many other honors and awards, including France’s Order of Arts and Letters, the Black Star Award from the Arts Critics and Reviewers Association of Ghana, and a five-night tribute at the Montreal Jazz Festival.
Willard Jenkins is an independent arts consultant, producer, educator, and print and broadcast journalist. His writing has been featured in JazzTimes, DownBeat, Jazz Report, Jazz Forum, All About Jazz, Jazzwise, and many other publications. He contributed two chapters to Ain’t Nothing like the Real Thing: How the Apollo Theater Shaped American Entertainment.
Table of Contents
Arranger's Preface / Willard Jenkins xi
1. Origins 5
2. Growing Up in Brooklyn 18
3. The Scene Shifts to the Pacific 28
4. Postwar: Escaping the Panic 37
5. Post-Berkshires: Succumbing to the Irresistible Lure 55
6. Enter Melba Liston 70
7. Uhuru Afrika: Freedom Africa 82
8. Making the Pilgrimage 102
9. Touring the Motherland 114
10. Making a Home in Africa 135
11. Connecting with the Gnawa 171
12. Building a Life in Tangier: The African Rhythm Club 183
13. Festival Blues, Then Divine Intervention: Blue Moses 194
14. Post Morroco and the Ellington Connection 206
15. Compositions and Sessions 220
16. The African Rhythms Quintet 235
17. The African Queen 252
18. The Adventures of Randy Weston 262
19. Ancient Future 278
Conclusion: Randy Weston . . . Philosophically Yours 299
Awards and Citations 323