Pianist Randy Weston Dies at 92

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Randy Weston at the 2013 Chicago Jazz Festival

(Photo: Michael Jackson)

Pianist Randy Weston, an NEA Jazz Master, Doris Duke Impact Award recipient, United States Artist Fellow and Guggenheim Foundation Fellow, died Sept. 1 in Brooklyn. He was 92.

A DownBeat Hall of Fame inductee, Weston remained active in recent years, performing live and issuing 2016’s The African Nubian Suite (African Rhythms), a two-CD recording of a 2012 concert performance at New York University featuring an international cast of musicians, and 2017’s Sound (African Rhythms), a two-CD solo piano recording from a 2001 engagement at Montreux Palace in Switzerland.

Throughout his lengthy recording career, which began with his 1954 debut, Cole Porter In A Modern Mood (Riverside), Weston drew connections between the jazz and blues that surrounded him while growing up in Brooklyn, New York, and the music of Africa, his ancestral homeland.

Africa became the theme of numerous Weston albums, many with arrangements by Melba Liston. They include Uhuru Africa (1960), Highlife (1963), African Cookbook (1969) and Blue Moses (1972). He first visited Africa in 1961 and then again in 1963 as a part of The American Society of African Culture. Weston traveled throughout the continent in 1967 for the U.S State Department and settled in Tangiers, Morocco, where he remained for five years and operated a venue called the African Rhythms Club.

Weston held honorary doctor of music degrees from Colby College, Brooklyn College and New England Conservatory of Music. He served as artist-in-residence at New York University, the New School and Medgar Evers College at City University of New York.

In 2010, Duke University Press published African Rhythms: The Autobiography of Randy Weston, written by Weston and arranged by Willard Jenkins. His decades of work are archived at Harvard University. DB




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