Anybody interested in a broad view of jazz and the many ways, despite borders, humanity is interconnected, owes a debt of gratitude to pianist, composer, and bandleader Randy Weston, who passed away in his sleep Saturday, Sept. 1.
He was 92.
A bebopper and admirer of Thelonious Monk early on, Randolph Edward Weston’s approach to jazz evolved shaped by the teachings of his father, a Marcus Garvey’s supporter; and the work of jazz scholar Marshall Stearns, author of the influential The Story of Jazz, whom he met while working at the fabled Music Inn in Stockbridge, MA.
By the late 50s, Weston was committed to a two-way path: taking jazz to Africa while also championing the African roots of jazz.
It’s a perspective that would largely color the rest of his career.
Randy Weston African Rythm Orchestra Live at The Montreux Jazz Festival (1985)
Weston moved to Morocco in 1968, and lived there for five years, running a performing space, the African Rhythms Cultural Center, and actively engaging the Gnawa musical tradition.
His work with gnawa music is captured in exceptional recordings such as The Splendid Master Gnawa Musicians of Morocco (Verve Antilles, 1995), a showcase of gnawa musicians recorded in Morocco that earned a GRAMMY nomination; and Spirit! The Power of Music (Sunnyside, 2000) a live recording of a concert at a church in Brooklyn featuring Weston’s African Rhythms Quintet and an ensemble of musicians from Morocco.
Randy Weston opened doors both ways.
‘Blue Moses’ by Randy Weston, Abdellah El Gourd and Dar Gnawa of Tanger ” New School, New York City, Oct. 13, 2015.