This is Part 2 in our ongoing series of anecdotes from the book African Rhythms: the autobiography of Randy Weston, Composed by Randy Weston, Arranged by Willard Jenkins, forthcoming, published by Duke University Press.
In one of the early chapters of our book Randy talks about the influence of the ancestor grandmaster drummer Max Roach. Max was a few years older and at the time (mid-late 1940s) much more experienced on the jazz scene than Randy but the two were fast friends and frequently hung out at Max’s place. Recalling those times, here Randy details a Miles Davis encounter.
"…Like I said, there were a lotta giants around Brooklyn back then, many of them living in my neighborhood. I mentioned [pianist] Eddie Heywood, who lived directly across the street. Max Roach’s house was two blocks away. George Russell was living in Max Roach’s house at the time. Miles Davis, who was the same age as me, had just come up from East St. Louis and he was a struggling young musician who didn’t have any money at the time, so he lived in a small place in the neighborhood on Kingston Avenue with his wife and young children.
I used to hang out at Max Roach’s house on Monroe Street all the time. Max’s house was a magnet for the new generation of musicians who emerged in the late 1940s, what the writers and fans called the bebop musicians. I remember George Russell would be there working on "Cubana Be Cubana Bop", which Dizzy Gillespie later made famous with his first Afro-Cuban flavored band. Miles would always be there at Max’s house as well because he was working with Charlie Parker at the time and Max was the drummer in that band; Duke Jordan, who was living in Brooklyn, was the pianist and Tommy Potter was the bassist. So Charlie Parker’s rhythm section was all Brooklyn guys.
I remember a really nice moment with some of these guys. In 1947 when the great trumpeter Freddie Webster, who was a big influence on Miles, died so prematurely, George Russell, Miles Davis, Max and me all got in my father’s car and we drove out to Coney Island by the ocean. While we strolled reminiscing on Freddie, Miles took out his trumpet right there on the beach and played a beautiful tribute to Freddie Webster that I’ll never forget!"
Stay tuned to this space… more anecdotes, further Adventures of Randy Weston coming soon…