Born: April 6, 1926 Primary Instrument: Piano
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 traveled throughout the continent tasting the musical fruits of other nations. This led him to settle in Morocco in 1968, where he continued to tour and perform throughout Morocco, Tunisia, Togo, the Ivory Coast, and Liberia.
Weston has made more than fifty recordings throughout his lifetime, the most celebrated including “African Cookbook,” “Little Niles,” “Blue Moses,” “Berkshire Blues,” “Uhuru Africa,” ( in collaboration with arranger Melba Liston) and Grammy-nominated “Tanjah” and “Carnaval.” A prolific composer, Weston’s highly individualistic works have been recorded by jazz virtuosi like Max Roach, Monty Alexander, Dexter Gordon, Jimmy Heath, Kenny Burrell, Abbey Lincoln, Bobby Hutchinson, Lionel Hampton, and Cannonball Adderly.
Weston is an articulate spokesman on the pivotal position of African music, dance, and other arts within world culture; on the diversity and importance of Africa’s vast musical resources; and on encouraging true cultural exchange and mutual learning between creative artists.
In 2006 Brooklyn College honored him with the honorary degree Doctor of Music
In 2003 New York University honored him with two weeks artist-in-residence and tribute concert
In 2001 He received the Jazz Masters Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts
In 2000 He received the Arts Critics and Reviewers Ass. of Ghana, Black Music Star Award
In 1999 Harvard University honored him with a 1 week residency and tribute concert
In 1997 He received The French Order Of Arts And Letters
In 1995 The Montreal Jazz Festival gave him a 5 night tribute.
In 1999, 1996 and 1994 he also won Composer of the year from Downbeat Magazine