Photo: Oumar Fall
Last Tuesday, April 6, NEA Jazz Master Randy Weston celebrated his 84th birthday in royal fashion. The setting was The Jazz Standard, New York’s finest jazz club/eatery (check George Wein’s latest blog entry and you’ll understand that tag). Tuesday was opening night of Randy Weston’s African Rhythms weeklong Jazz Standard engagement, and more importantly the master pianist-composer’s 84th birthday. For the occasion his longtime music director-saxophonist T.K. Blue and agent Maurice Montoya had arranged a superb evening featuring the members of Weston’s African Rhythms, including trombonist Benny Powell, percussionist Neil Clarke, Blue, and bassist Santi DeBriano subbing for an ailing Alex Blake, plus special guests.
Apropos, the subject was Weston’s distinctively substantive compositions, and to deliver thick slices of that singular book royally before the joyous packed house of Weston family, friends, intimates, and enthusiasts, T.K. called upon the very able talents of guest pianists Mulgrew Miller, Arturo O’Farrill, and Rodney Kendrick. Each of them paid humble, celebratory homage and brought their finely honed touch to the Weston ouevre. Other guests included vocalist Jann Parker, who rendered a stunning "African Lady" in spare duet with Clarke; a Gnawa maalem, and a Senegalese kora player rounded out the onstage celebrants. One guest in particular brought down the house in his stint, 89-year old NEA Jazz Master conguero Candido.
Randy and African Rhythms will finish out the week at The Jazz Standard through Sunday, located at 116 E. 27th Street just off Lexington Ave. Better make your reservations (212/576-2232) for what promises to be the most joyous, spiritual music in New York this week!
Our book project: African Rhythms: the autobiography of Randy Weston, will be released in October on Duke University Press. Check this site for updates.