June 1st , 2006
Randy Weston, Brooklyn
College honors you today as an extraordinary jazz composer, pianist, and
You were born in Brooklyn in 1926 and reared in Bedford-Stuyvesant.
Your father took you to hear the jazz greats as well as West Indian
popular music, and your mother introduced you to Negro spirituals a gospel
music. As a child, you studied classical piano, but it was the ‘jazz
masters’ work that captivated you. As a youth, you worked with saxophonist
Cecil Payne and trumpeter Ray Copeland.
During World War II, you were drafted into the army and served until 1948.
You returned to New York and performed with numerous bandleaders,
including George Hall and Art Blakey. During the late 1940s, you received
one-on-one instruction from Thelonious Monk, and you went on to develop
your own distinctive, orchestral piano style.
In 1954, Riverside Records signed you for its first
modernist album. You
were playing in Greenwich Village's "Birdland" and "Cafe Bohemia", engagements
that led to further recordings and collaborations, notably with your
longstanding musical partner, trombonist-arranger
Melba Liston, you recorded a landmark work,
Uhuru Afrika written
to celebrate the independence of several African nations. You went to
Africa in 1961 and moved to Morocco in 1967. You returned to the United
States in 1972 and have lived in Brooklyn ever since.
Among your numerous awards are a Jazz Masters Fellowship from the National
Endowment for the Arts and the French Order of Arts and Letters. Downbeat
Magazine named you composer of the year for 1994, 1996, and 1999. In 2002,
you performed at the Nobel Peace Prize celebration in Alexandria, Egypt.
Randy Weston, for your long and distinguished career and for your abiding commitment to bridging cultures and fostering
understanding through music, Brooklyn College of the City University of
New York awards you the honorary degree Doctor of Music with all the
rights and privileges thereunto pertaining.