Randy Weston African Rhythms
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SELF PORTRAITS
THE LAST DAY

recorded  5 June 1989  
Studio Ferber  Paris  France
LP   1990   Verve    841 3142
CD   1990   Verve    841 3142

See also:
        Portraits of Thelonious Monk
        Portraits of Duke Ellington

| real | wm |  
 

        liner notes


Randy Weston piano
Jamil Nasser
bass
Idris Muhammad
drums, percussion
Eric Asante
percussion

Jean-Philippe Allard producer
Rene Ameline
engineer
Rhashidah E. McNeill liner notes

 

  1   Portrait of Frank Edward Weston  (Weston)
  2   Berkshire Blues  (Weston)
  3   African Night
  (Weston)
  4   Night in Medina
  (Weston)
  5   Ganawa in Paris
  (Weston)
  6   The Last Day
  (Weston)


SELF PORTRAITS
The Last Day


It is June 5th, 1989, and in Paris, it is an unusually mild and sunny day. Paris is notorious for its daily overcast and spontaneous drizzle. You are warned, especially if you're a visitor or traveler, to always be prepared for Paris's sudden celestial dribbles. Even the Eiffel Tower reveals its full splendor today. Ordinarily, its crown is cloaked in the ubiquitous Parisian mist.

At the Ferber Studio, the drama continues to unfold as the magnanimous frame of Randy Weston descends to face that big, black woman with the white teeth for the third consecutive day. As he does customarily, Randy approaches her with reverence. He knows that she can do no wrong! He has draped her huge, glistening, onyx body with royal kente cloth. The Bösendorfer piano has never looked more majestic. And yet, today, he is especially humble for she is beckoning him - no, summoning him - to answer her call as he has done for over thirty years. And he knows that he must because there are more lessons to learn, more secrets to get, and more messages to give.

June 5th, 1989 is not just another day for pianist composer Randy Weston. For one thing, it is the finale of a three-day recording session that none present is likely to forget, including PolyGram's Jean Philippe Allard and Morocco's Jacques Muyal whose excitement could hardly be contained. The music was that intense! Three separate recordings in three days. For Randy Weston and his Trio of musicians these were three days of pure exhilaration, euphoria, and exhaustion.

For another thing, Self-Portraits of Randy Weston, consummates the trilogy of tributes that Randy has paid to his mentors and ancestors, Thelonious Monk, Duke Ellington and, of course, his father, Frank Edward Weston.

Additionally, this June 5th, 1989 recording culminates in Randy's total expression. Artistically, of the plethora of influences that he has been harvesting since he was a young boy until now, including those he gathered while living in Africa.

Self-Portraits of Randy Weston is not a self-indulgent appraisal of Randy, himself, but rather a musical delineation of the great richness of Africa and her traditional music, the roots of most other types of music in the world.

Finally, these recordings are welcome reprieve for Randy Weston' s fans from his five-year hiatus from recorded music. His last recording was Blue,
1984.

This music, which Weston prefers to call African Rhythms, is a potpourri of crystal tones, funky, indigenous rhythms, pensive melodies, and syncopatic adventure always with spiritual overtones and homage to his predecessors. it is steeped in tradition and the copious, varied experiences that Weston feels honored to have gained while in Brooklyn, New York, in the Berkshire in New England, from Africa, from nature, children, and beyond. Weston's music may well be the just restitution for the sometimes obscure origin of music.

Significantly, Self-Portraits of Randy Weston demonstrates, through Randy's careful selection of musicians and their synergistic performances of his compositions, the connection of the roots of all modern music.

"For me, the most compelling aspect of African culture is its music, magnificent in its power and diversity, with drums - African rhythms - always at the heart. The music of no other civilization can rival that of Africa in the complexity and subtlety of its rhythms. All modern music - jazz, gospel, Latin, rock, bossa nova, calypso, samba, r & b, the blues, even music of the avant-garde - is in debt to African rhythms", Randy says.

Jamil Nasser, bassist, Eric Asante, African percussionist, and Idris Muhammad, drummer, all provide a synoptic overview of the drum's eminence in Randy's synthesis of African traditional music. They are the backdrop of Weston' s honed vision and on these recordings, the perfect complements of Weston's musical interpretations of African rhythms.

Randy Weston's potent fertility as a pianist-composer, and especially as bandleader, in this instance, is resplendent in the respect he elicits easily from his peers, and sidemen Nasser, Asante, and Muhammad.
Jamil Nasser, who met Weston in 1957, admitted that Randy is one of the few bandleaders that he never refuses a date with. Anytime he calls. If I have something I could cancel. it's not a matter of how much because Randy is a musician's king and you give kings consideration. This should be one of the nicest things that ever happened for Randy because now people can have a panorama of the mind of this king.

You see, Randy should have had monuments built to him already. So, I think that its one of the greatest things that ever happened that the true link between Monk and Ellington would be doing these tributes' cause nobody is more qualified to do them than Randy Weston. And I'm thrilled that I'm a part of it.

You see, the only important people in our music are the ones who change things. That's the reason why Mr. Monk, Mr. Ellington, Lester Young, Charlie Parker, the predecessors are important - because they changed things. They brought something new that could be added on to what was already known - like Louis Armstrong. He changed things. The music would never be the same again. Young and Count Basie - they changed things. They took it further. Randy is not only a super performer, a super pianist, he's also a super writer. We, artists, didn't need the critics to tell us that.

We've known that for years! We exchange knowledge. We don't criticize,,, said the virtuoso bassist from Memphis who played with piano genius, Phineas Newborn jr. for several years before joining Weston in '57 Prior to that, he played with blues giant, B.B. King.

Eric Asante, a newcomer, African percussionist from Ghana said, Since I started playing with Randy I know that I have a lot to learn but I enjoyed myself. I will listen to him many times in the future with this music. They -Randy, Nasser, and Idris -make me feel that I'm on the right track. I felt more free in my drumming.

Idris Muhammad, whose flexibility as a drummer has allowed him to play diverse music styles with artists of equal versatility said that he was in tune with Weston’s music 20 years ago and after seeing and hearing Weston’s rhythmic playing at a set in Germany 1988, Idris decided that he had to play with Randy, although he had no idea that it would happen so soon or be so good.

I was happy because he had Jamil Nasser and I know that I played so well with Jamil and to play with Randy would be a challenge to play his music. Doing this was a great challenge for me to play some music with a person like Randy Weston who has a vast variety of music and not only that - he's a wonderful human being.

Randy is the link between Duke Ellington, Count Basie, and Monk. I think that for so many years as these people passed, then Randy was just overlooked and he didn't get the credit. He didn't get what was duo to him, but I'm sure that now after people hear this music that whoever wont credit him will feel bad, insists the drummer who's originally from New Orleans. He began with the Neville Brothers in 1956 and since then has played and/or recorded with a long list of credits with artists such as the Impressions, Jerry Butler, Curtis Mayfield, Little Richard, Roberta Flack to CTI and Blue Note label artists such as Freddie Hubbard, Stanley Turrentine. Lee Morgan and Pharoah Sanders. Ions has also recorded about six to his own discs with the Fantasy and CTI labels.

The common denominator between all these men is not only their creative genius, flexibility, and veteran experiences, but also an authentic, serious, and deep understanding among them that music is a sacred art form. The result is a combination of spiritual unity, dignity, and commitment, that gives way to a ready, yielding improvisation.

The Creator is the real musician, Randy Weston philosophizes.  I am an instrument. The piano is an instrument. When we are in tune with each other beautiful music arrives.
 

1989  by Randy Weston as told to Rhashidah E. McNeill
 

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