On the road with Weston

 Coming this fall: African Rhythms, the autobiography of Randy Weston, composed by NEA Jazz Master Randy Weston, arranged by Willard Jenkins (Duke University Press).


Geographically, ranking third only to Africa and Brooklyn in the odyssey of NEA Jazz Master Randy Weston, is the idyllic, green-mountain Berkshires region of New York and Massachusetts.  The past Memorial Day weekend was a particularly joyous time for Randy to renew his Berkshires connection.  A collective of Berkshires jazz enthusiasts presented Randy in concert at the Berkshire Museum in Pittsfield, MA.  The evening was preceded by an afternoon panel discussion featuring journalist-broadcaster Seth Rogan, veteran writer Milton Bass (who wrote tellingly in his concert preview in the May 27 edition of Berkshires Week: "I first encountered Randy more than 50 years ago in Lenox [MA]") at the Music Inn, and writer-professor (Boston University) Jeremy Yudkin, author of the important book The Lenox School of Jazz ("A vital Chapter in the History of American Music and Race Relations"; Farshaw Publishing), and Weston, which I had the pleasure of moderating.

The evening’s concert was a sublime duo performance by Randy Weston and his longtime bassist Alex Blake.  One of the highlights was a pungent, obligatory essay on Weston’s enduring waltz "The Berkshire Blues."  The journey was a particularly nostalgic one for Weston as numerous friends and associates came out to celebrate his return, including one of the former chefs at the Music Inn, whose culinary magic inspired a Weston tune "Willie’s Blues."  Randy’s granddaughter, filmmaker Rebecca Farella, captured Weston’s reminiscences for a future film.

The Sunday following the concert we took a drive through various of Weston’s former haunts, including the resort formerly known as Avaloch where Weston began to establish his 10-year Berkshires piano residency.  This vital chapter in Randy Weston’s odyssey is chronicled in great detail in our forthcoming book, which will be released by Duke University Press in October.  As they say in radio land, Stay Tuned… and don’t sleep!

African Rhythms, the autobiography of Randy Weston; composed by Randy Weston, arranged by Willard Jenkins (Duke University Press, October 2010).

                                — Willard Jenkins


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