Randy Weston African Rhythms
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RANDY WESTON’S   AFRICAN RHYTHMS
CD  2002  Comet   028 (France)

Original albums:
        AFRICAN COOKBOOK
        NILES LITTLE BIG


         liner notes

 


AFRICAN COOKBOOK
| real | wm |

recorded   June 1969  
Paris   France

Randy Weston piano
Henry Texier
bass
Art Taylor
drums
Azzedin Niles Weston
percussion
Reebop Kwaku Baah
percussion

  1   African Cookbook  (Weston)
  2   Night In Medina
  (Weston)
  3   Jajouka
  (Weston)
  4   Marrakesh Blues
  (Weston)
  5   Con Alma
(Dizzy Gillespie)
  6   Afro-Black
  (Weston)


NILES LITTLE BIG
| real | wm |

recorded  June 1969  
Paris   France

Randy Weston piano
Henry Texier
bass
Art Taylor
drums
Azzedin Niles Weston
percussion
Reebop Kwaku Baah
percussion

  7   Little Niles  (Weston)
  8   Niger Mambo
(Bobby Benson)
  9   C.W. Blues
  (Weston)
10   Pam’s Waltz
  (Weston))
11   Hi-Fly
  (Weston)
12   Penny Packer Blues
  (Weston)
13   Blues for Sweet Cakes
  (Weston)
14   Out of the Past
 (Benny Goldson)


RANDY WESTON: AFRICA’S MEMORY


From its first record traces, jazz points to Africa as one of its sources of inspiration. Like a future groove on which people can dig to recover their mind, and their ancestral memory. Listening to the first tracks of Louis Armstrong or Duke Ellington is enough to convince oneself. It is at that time, the late 20's. that Randy Weston was born in an afro-caribbean family, in Brooklyn, in the colorful Bedford Stuyvesant neighborhood, and where he still lives more than 70 years later. Here's where this future giant - nearly 2 meters tall - will go into music, even though he dreamt of becoming a "basketball player". So no basket but a well tempered keyboard, and 5 pianists as his masters, something like the 5 fingers of the hand: Nat King Cole, "for the beauty of the move"; Count Basie, "for his gorgeous blues style"; Art Tatum, "for his incredible eloquence"; Thelonious Monk, "for his more african than american approach of the instrument"; and finally, Duke Ellington, "for the mastery of sound and imagination".

Randy Weston will have pointed out the comparable progress between Duke Ellington and Thelonious Monk. "Both are at the same time great sound masters, great pianists, great conductors, great composers, and each of them has an incessantly renewed originality". An elegant and distinguished piano, a drummed and "out of time" piano. It is with these references that the rhythm sorcerer apprentice started his career. Very soon noticed, as he is in 1955 promoted "New Talent" by the Down Beat Magazine. From then, he - who started as many others in a rhytm'n'blues orchestra - will print a more and more personal touch on his vision of Jazz. A drummy touch, which although never neglects the melodic class, From that time, Randy Weston will compose a persona! repertoire, putting down standards as "Hi-Fly" or "Little Miles", But most of all, beyond these simple scores, this american pianist will practice in the field, exposing himself to the Continent that attracts him, Africa.

In 1960, the composer of "Zulu" |1951] and "Uhuru Africa" [I960], will found the African American Musician Society, a New York association which aims to "claim the afro-american culture but also the concepts of emancipation of Africa".

A year later, he is invited to Nigeria, the Yoruba sanctuary. the fertile ground of the secret cults represented by Haitian Voodoo, Brazilian Macumba or Cuban Santeria. It's the beginning of constant return trips, in music as in life, between the 2 transatlantic banks. Journeys that will have more and more repercussions on his music's elaborated structures. "We are a diaspora, and, as one. we have always had the dream of going back to our ancestors continent" But it's in 1967, after a tour of 14 African countries, that Randy decides to take the big step. He settled down In Morocco and founded a plural musical club - he hates the word Jazz, too significant and so delinquent - The African Rhythm Club which was to become his harbour, near by Tangier. It's where he will definitely get initiated to a more global and mystical musical allegiance, starting with the maalem gnawa from the gembri masters Through these guides, to whom music can [and must] have therapeutic effects, Randy Weston will enrich his abundant imagination,

At home, everything is color and blue is the color of this son of blues This is not made up ! He will especially work on the spirituality that comes out of his music, which Invites more and more, between the harmonic lines, the rhythmic and melodic aspects of the moroccan musicians who are to be Guineens descendants, A dark and sober link crossed by the genius lines of a great improviser,

This is what Is told in these 2 Parisian sessions for the Polydor Label, run at the time by Jacques Kemer and Henri Belolo [yes, the same guy that's now running euro-dance music label Scorpio']. Just connect the theme of this rhythm strong album, where the double-bass of a promising young Henri Texier is crossed with the drums of an unbridled swing guard Art Taylor: "African Cookbook", "A Night In Medina". "Marrakech Blues", "Niger Mambo"... Explicit titles as the "Jajouka" which salutes in its own way this high perched village where Berber musicians discuss the world through an universal aesthetic, the same that moved Ornette Coleman in the early 70's, or even Talvin Singh in the year 2000. The same that rocks the 88 ivory and ebony keys of Randy Weston's piano, perpetuating a tradition written in the same genes as the blues, also initiating a genealogy. Well Inspired son of so many masters of the past, Randy Weston has become the spiritual father to others. All these musicians have since passed into the members of the world of music, marking out the future's new tracks,

Jacques Denis


 

THE LAST FIGURE OF THE ARTIST

Native of Boston and beginning as a beatnik poet, clarinetist for 10 years in school, before becoming a kazoo lover (!), producer of these sessions, Robin Hemingway had the chance in the 60's to meet Jimi Hendrix but he also worked with the Georgie Fame combo, the Beatles and Apple Music, then with the blues master Joe Turner, and later on the production of the "Tales of Mozambique" LP by Count Ossie Mystic Revelation Rastafari and even behind the desk for Earth Wind and Fire. This black american producer ends up in Paris in May 1968. He couldn't have dreamt of a better time to taste the funny breath of a capital in the excitement of these famous times. Only then, everything was closed, even the record labels. So to survive, he cooks 'soulfood' at night and prepares new "dishes" during the day, It won't last long until he applies his recipes behind his recording console, producing some anthology sides where jazz and blues traditions are mixed to the sound of rock and funk,

Jacques Denis/At the end of the 60's, Paris seemed to have been "the place to be" for free jazz musicians - those who didn't want to play jazz clichés- and becoming at the same lime the spot for merging world music...



Robin Hemingway/ Although a refuge to many afro-american musicians, Paris wasn't the capital of jazz, at least not for those american musicians who wanted to get out of clichés. It was all going on in New York I The revolution initiated by Coltrane, Miles' permanent evolution, Pharoah Sanders' arrival, Ornette's first lofts. On the other side. Paris was the crossing point for musicians coming from Africa, the first center of what will be called world music. But their motivations were more socio-economic than really aesthetic. Even though some of them started to mix traditions with occidental sounds, most of the african firms had Stax or Motown as models, which guaranteed engagements and corresponded to the vibrations of that time's youth.

J.D./ When did you meet Randy Weston ? And what did he mean to you ?
 

R.H./ I like the sound of the piano, and Randy Weston has always represented the last figure of the artist. Not only in jazz, but also in blues and in a certain way in classic. He has got a kind of magical touch. I met him for the first time at the Jazz Gallery, a dub in New York. His group - with Cecil Payne, a great baryton if I do recall - was sharing the stage with Monk's group, when Charlie Rouse was playing tenor sax. During the break, Monk, Rouse and myself went outside to get some fresh air. As we were walking, we talked about Randy's game and Monk pointed out his respect for his disciple and the sound of his keyboard. This is just to say that Randy represents to me one of the most original and creative musicians of the New York scene. And even more since his stays in Morocco, where he was initiated Into powerful music which enriched his spirituality and deeply changed his vision of rhythm.

J.D./ The souvenir of Mother Africa has often been pointed out in his music...
 

R.H./ Of course, he has always been drawn to Africa. "The earth of his Ancestors". But he is more than that, because he has a bigger rock and soul dimension, without mentioning his mastering of more classic material It, would be harmful to rank him in only one category, as huge it can be, just because he wrote and recorded "African Cookbook", Even with the spirit of Africa, Randy's universe shines beyond.
 

J.D./ Is this why you chose this more "modern" sound, more electric, for these Parisian sessions, which by the way gives a fair summary of Randy's two personalities, one incarnating the jazz tradition, the other the more african and funky way..,
 

R.H./ The sound I gave to these recordings of Randy was guided by the fact that jazz was recorded in a much too flat way in the 50's and 60's. The instruments were hardly audible, with a very tight sound, and sometimes even out of tune, particularly on the piano. In Manhattan, with John Coltrane, we called to mind many times the way ‘Trane was recorded on Impulse ! He worked constantly on how his solos were melted to the rest of the group's sound He was always ready to experiment! I am sure that Coltrane would have liked the whole sound, in a rock'n'roll way, that we printed on Randy's sessions. Each Instrument had totally its own space- The double-bass as the lined-up congas, the piano as the drums.

J.D./ Who directed the casting of these recordings ? Who chose the repertoire ?
 

R.H./ Randy knew who he wanted to play with. Art Taylor just arrived in France, which made things easier. I suggested to him the percussionist Reebop Kwaabu Baah, a funny man I worked with in London but more with rock'n'roll groups. He was part of my back-up band there together with Nicky Hopkins on keys, John Paul Jones on bass, Jimmy Page on guitar and a few others. His touch goes very well with Randy's son's touch, Niles Azzedin. And there was this young double-bass player, Henri Texier, unknown to me, who happened to be an excellent surprise. For the repertoire, it was Randy who proposed it.

J.D./ You have produced otter albums in Paris, some of them have become classics, often connected to afro-american music...
 

R.K,/ Can one seriously produce music without being in touch with black music, especially afro-american ? Even though Europe was tuned into that music, its wider and more natural audience was still the black-american community in (he U S, Still today, even though the young audience draws toward hip hop and electronic music’s, Jazz, blues and soul remain music’s rooted in the american reality.


J.D./ What were your recipes ?
 

R.H./ A good producer is one who has prepared and anticipated everything before the session Then, it's more about listening and working, and of course putting together the best musicians in optimum conditions, at least the ones who will have much to say at that time. After the recordings with Randy, I stayed a few years in Paris before going back to the states. During that period, I created a Parisian back-up band, with whom we recorded the Guerillas' record, because I believe the home spirit is an essential foundation in the artistic success of a recording. There were Manu Dibango on sax, organ and piano, MAM on soprano sax Jean Mandengue Dikoto on bass. Slim Pezm on guitar, Lucien Oobat on drums and Ben's on percussions. This is how I recorded during this period T-Bone Walker's "Good Feeling", which won a Grammy in 1971, Hal Singers "Paris Soul Food". Manu Dibango's "Saxy Party", and actively participated on other albums like "Blackeyed Peas" or "Robert Patterson Singers",,, I even spent nights and days with George Moustaki. when Polydor wanted him to record in English. One failed project, as well as one with Jacques Brel, who wanted me to cut a record for his friend Maddly Bamy.
 

Jacques Denis and Robin Hemmingway

Original liner notes by Robin & Randy Weston.
 

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