Randy Weston African Rhythms
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National Endowment for Arts
Jazz Master Award
Randy Weston

PIANIST / COMPOSER / ARRANGER

NEA  Site

 

2001

Randy Weston has led a distinguished career that has spanned the globe, with particular interest and emphasis on Africa. After contributing nearly four decades of musical direction and genius,  Mr. Weston remains one of the world's foremost pianists and composers today, a true innovator and visionary.

A disciple of Duke Ellington and his music, Mr. Weston’s formative years were shaped by his mentorship with Thelonious Monk. Following early work in R&B bands, including Bullmoose Jackson and Eddie Vinson, he also worked with such jazz artists as Kenny Dorham and fellow Brooklynite Cecil Payne, and in 1954 Mr. Weston became the first modern jazz artist to record for the historic Riverside label.  

Visiting parts of Africa in the early 60s and finally setting in Rabat, Morocco in 1968, his artistry became infused with the continent's music and its rhythms. His recording of Uhuru Africa, text by Langston Hughes and arrangements by his long-time partner and arranger/trombonist Melba Liston , is considered to be a masterwork.

"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," says the artist. His compositional output is both large and impressive. 

Many of his works have become indelible jazz standards, such as "Little Niles," "Babe's Blues," "Berkshire Blues," and "Hi Fly," his greatest hit that Mr. Weston says, is a "tale of being my height and looking down at them ground."  In 1995, Mr. Weston was nominated for a World Music Grammy for " The Master Gnawa Musicians of Morocco ".  In addition to being a master jazz artist, Mr. Weston is a pioneer in recognizing important cultural connections and he continues to demonstrate ways to erode barriers that separate nations.
 

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