Randy Weston African Rhythms
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PIANO LA MODE

recorded  spring 1957 
Beltone Studios New York  USA
LP  1959  Jubilee   1060
LP            Roulette  21006 (65001)

Collections:
        CD   2009  Jazzbeat  540
        CD   2003  Mosaic    004
        LP   1976  Roulette  RE-130


| real | wm |  
 

         liner notes


Randy Weston piano
Peck Morrison bass
Connie Kay drums

Lee Kraft producer
Nat Hentoff liner notes

  1   Earth Birth  (Weston)
  2  
Nobody Knows the Trouble I Have Seen (trad.)
  3  
Saucer Eyes  (Weston)
  4  
I Got Rhythm (G.Gershwin / I. Gershwin)
  5   Gingerbread
  (Weston)
  6  
Cocktails for Two ( S.Coslow / A. Johnson)
  7   Honeysuckle Rose
(F. Waller / A. Razaf)
  8  
FE-Double-U (FEW) Blues  (Weston)
 


PIANO  A  LA  MODE

 

Randy Weston, 31, is evolving into a vigorously personal jazzman with spirited intelligence, and large reservoir of what the young mainstreamers like Quincy Jones and Cannonball Adderley call soul.

Within the past year, Weston's career is also quickening. He's worked the Cafe Bohemia, several Sunday afternoon concerts at Birdland for Jazz Unlimited, Cy Coleman's Playroom, The Five Spot, and concerts at Town Hall and Loew's Sheridan presented by the Village Voice, the resiliently hip Greenwich Village weekly. He has also signed with the Columbia Lecture Bureau for the fall of 1957 and the spring of 1958 to present a series of jazz lecture-demonstrations at colleges and in auditoriums. Weston, as articulate verbally as he is on piano, usually opens his lecture program with demonstrations of the roots of jazz -African rhythms, spirituals, boogie-woogie and the blues. The second half reflects his own modern approach, and invariably includes several of his originals.

Randy has become a jazz writer of growing distinction. He's written some 23 originals, and several of them, like the waltz, Little Niles, are being recorded and performed by a number of his contemporaries, including Gigi Gryce, Oscar Pettiford and George Shearing. Milt Jackson plans to record Randy's Pam's Waltz, and I expect that in the decade and more ahead, Randy will become as recognized for his compositions as for his playing.

Randy's attitude toward jazz is strongly involved with his love and respect for the traditions of the language. One of his three major influences is Duke Ellington. "The way he plays," Randy begins, "for one thing. He's not recognized too much as a pianist, but he's a fine one. He's very definite; he's not afraid to do what's in his mind; and his playing has that sound and drive he gets from his orchestra. And there's his feeling for change of pace; he can be wild and then become so subtle. The blues feeling he had his band have moves me so. The whole band has that blues sound and feeling, no matter what they're playing."

Art Tatum is a second influence, as he has to have been to almost every jazz pianist by virtue of his total command of the instrument. A third is Thelonious Monk. "When I first met Monk," says Randy, "I was more interested in Nat Cole and Eddie Heywood, who lived around the corner from me. I wasn't in a musical position to appreciate what Monk was doing. This was in 1944, and I heard Monk at the Down Beat with Coleman Hawkins. I had great respect for Hawkins, and I figured that if Hawkins had hired Monk, Monk must have something to say. I became so fascinated by him in time that I decided to meet and talk to him. There wasn't much at first in the way of conversation, but I'd go by his house, starting around 1947 and continuing intermittently for several years, and he'd play piano and I'd listen for three or four years. I really do feel Monk is a genius."

"If it's not a paradox," Randy adds, "Monk has a command of freedom. I never get the feeling of paper and notes in his work. There is a complete freedom in his work. It doesn't sound as if he's affected by barriers or conventions. Whatever he feels, he writes and plays; and yet he still keeps alive that old definite piano sound like Fats Waller and James P. Johnson. Monk inspired me in that he showed me you can stretch out and be yourself. Some people say he hasn't much technique as a pianist. Technique isn't important. It's the message you have that counts, especially in jazz. I once heard a piano player who could only play three or four chords, but when he was through, you knew emotionally he'd been there!

"As a writer, Monk can create a melody that sounds like no one else's and yet just seems tom have flowed naturally from him. I can't verbalize how he does it; I don't think he can verbalize it either. I've never taken a formal lesson from him, but I've listened and talked to him a lot, and he's changed my whole conception. I remember one lesson he taught me especially well. There was some music going on at his house. I didn't care for it, and said so. Monk said nonchalantly but firmly, "You've got to listen to everybody and everything. Everybody has something to say." "I've found that to be very true."

Concerning the tracks on this album, Randy begins by explaining that his Earth Birth was written at Lenox, Massachusetts, where he has played during the summer, most recently at the Festival House, since 1951. "It's nature, my feeling about trees, grass, the open." The composition is in waltz tempo throughout, and is now the third of Randy's waltzes (the previous two, Pam's Waltz and Little Niles), were dedicated to his children who are respectively seven and six.

Nobody Knows the Trouble I've Seen, which he dedicates to his mother, reflects Randy's involvement in spirituals. "I've always wanted to play them. I tried to make this a straight interpretation, but with feeling. I'd attempted it once before at another record date, but it hadn't worked out. Obviously, the spirituals are among the root sources of jazz, and more musicians should go back and listen to them. I find myself listening to spirituals more and more, to people like Mahalia Jackson and to singers whose names I don't know who sing in storefront churches."

Saucer Eyes was written by Randy some three years ago at Lenox, but has never been previously recorded by him, although it's been cut by Cecil Payne. "Most of the musicians seem to like it and some asked me to record it. It's a regular 32-bar tune and it's about someone I met who has real large eyes."

Randy chose I Got Rhythm and Honeysuckle Rose on the second side "because I like the old basic jazz tunes, and yet wanted to do them a little differently, maintaining the feeling and melody so that anybody can recognize it and yet indicate a modern approach."

Gingerbread is another Weston original, first written in 1952. "It's a 32-bar song based entirely on flatted fifths."
Randy's affection for Cocktails for Two results from his strong memory of the first time he heard it. It was a 1946 Coleman Hawkins recording with Hank Jones on piano. "Hawkins' interpretation was so beautiful, I never forgot it, and I've always wanted to record the song ever since."

Honeysuckle Rose is a demonstration of Randy's affection for Fats Walter: "He was one of the greatest as pianist and composer." It's interesting that in listing the Waller songs he was most grateful for, Jitterbug Waltz, one of the first jazz waltzes, was among the first titles. Randy is currently becoming the Strauss of the modern jazz world.
 

FEW Blues The final blues is dedicated to Randy's father and the cryptic title arises from the latter's initials. His name is Frank Edward Weston. "A lot of young musicians are getting away from the blues," Randy emphasizes, "and they shouldn't. The blues are still the most fascinating thing in jazz."

Randy's regular bassist, John A."Peck"Morrison, who has been with Gerry Mulligan, is on the date and Randy's assessment of him succinctly is that "he's steady, plays a basic bass, and swings practically all the time". The drummer is Connie Kay on one of his very few recent jazz dates away from the Modern Jazz Quartet, his regular home.

"Connie and I," says Randy, "played a lot of rhythm and blues together around 1957 with Bullmoose Jackson and Frank "Floor Show" Cully. We even made two southern tours together, and were on the first date the Clovers made for Atlantic. We weren't very happy when we came back from those tours. We were both playing pretty badly and loud, and we just couldn't express ourselves in the music. It was a constant hassle. So we stayed in jazz."

"Connie," concludes Weston, "is one of the most musical of all jazz drummers, and he's a wonderfully swinging drummer besides. I wonder if he gets a chance to be fully heard and appreciated with the Modern Jazz Quartet. He gets a beautiful sound from his set, beautiful colors. We took fours on the waltz, and listen to the musical things he plays."

Randy, in summary, though characteristically self-critical, feels he has expressed several parts of his message on this album, and as you can hear, it is a message that proves the worth of a creative individual knowing and feeling his past. If the essential individuality (or capacity for that kind of growth) exists in a player and writer, it can only be strengthened by a feeding on the roots of his language.
 

1957  Nat Hentoff
 

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