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Randy Weston

Billy Harper

Randy Weston & Billy Harper (rehearsal & performance)
@ the Queen Elizabeth Hall
17 November 2014

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Randy Weston biography

After contributing six decades of musical direction and genius, Randy Weston remains one of the world’s foremost pianists and composers today, a true innovator and visionary. Encompassing the vast rhythmic heritage of Africa, his global creations musically continue to inform and inspire.

“Weston has the biggest sound of any jazz pianist since Ellington and Monk, as well as the richest most inventive beat,” states jazz critic Stanley Crouch, “but his art is more than projection and time; it’s the result of a studious and inspired intelligence...an intelligence that is creating a fresh synthesis of African elements with jazz technique”.

Randy Weston, born in Brooklyn, New York in 1926, didn’t have to travel far to hear the early jazz giants that were to influence him. Though Weston cites Count Basie, Nat King Cole, Art Tatum, and of course, Duke Ellington as his other piano heroes, it was Monk who had the greatest impact. “He was the most original I ever heard,” Weston remembers. “He played like they must have played in Egypt 5000 years ago.”

Randy Weston’s first recording as a leader came in 1954 on Riverside Records Randy Weston plays Cole Porter - Cole Porter in a modern mood It was in the 50’s when Randy Weston played around New York with Cecil Payne and Kenny Dorham that he wrote many of his best loved tunes, “Saucer Eyes,” “Pam's Waltz,” “Little Niles,” and, “Hi-Fly.” His greatest hit, “Hi-Fly,” Weston (who is 6’ 8”) says, is a “tale of being my height and looking down at the ground.”
Randy Weston has never failed to make the connections between African and American music. His dedication is due in large part to his father, Frank Edward Weston, who told his son that he was, “an African born in America.” “He told me I had to learn about myself and about him and about my grandparents,” Weston said in an interview, “and the only way to do it was I’d have to go back to the motherland one day.”

In the late 60’s, Weston left the country. But instead of moving to Europe like so many of his contemporaries, Weston went to Africa. Though he settled in Morocco, he travelled throughout the continent tasting the musical fruits of other nations. One of his most memorable experiences was the 1977 Nigerian festival, which drew artists from 60 cultures. “At the end,” Weston says, “we all realised that our music was different but the same, because if you take out the African elements of bossa nova, samba, jazz, blues, you have nothing..........To me, it’s Mother Africa’s way of surviving in the new world.”

Billy Harper biography

Billy Harper’s unique music creativity was first noted in Houston, Texas, where, at age 5, he was singing at sacred and secular functions and participating in choral and solo singing events. By age 14, he formed his first Billy Harper Quintet while a student at Evan E. Worthing High School. Graduating cum laude, he went on to study saxophone and music theory at North Texas State University and received his Bachelor of Music degree. He continued graduate studies at NTSU and became a member of their ‘big band.’ That year, 1965, the University’s big band won first prize at the Kansas Jazz Festival.

Harper moved to New York in 1966 and began attracting attention from some of jazzdom’s giants - Gil Evans, Max Roach, Thad Jones, Mel Lewis, Lee Morgan, Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers. He performed, recorded and toured Europe, Japan, Africa and throughout the United States from 1966 to 1979 with these groups, as well as his own Billy Harper Quintet.

Billy Harper

Randy Weston Randy Weston

Randy Weston & Billy Harper

Randy Weston & Billy Harper Billy Harper

Randy Weston & Billy Harper

Randy Weston & Billy Harper

Randy Weston & Billy Harper

Randy Weston & Billy Harper

Randy Weston

Randy Weston

 


Recommended
Listening

 

Randy Weston Billy Harper - The Roots of the Blues Randy Weston - Blue Moses Randy Weston - Zep Tepi Randy Weston - African Cookbook
Billy Harper - Blueprints of jazz vol2 Billy Harper - Somalia Billy Harper - Soul Of An Angel Billy Harper - Black Saint

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