2010 was big for pianist and composer Randy Weston. He published his illuminating and riveting autobiography, and he continued playing like a vital musician—continuing to play his fresh compositions. Weston's story is legitimately different than that of any other jazz musician because he has no peer when it comes to integrating the music of Africa into contemporary jazz.
Weston recorded a live set at Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola with his working group, the African Rhythms, and it's as good a place as any to remind yourself that you probably haven't listen to Weston as much as you should. With TK Blue on saxiphone and (the late and missed) Benny Powell on trombone, Weston has a distinctive and deep front line to put across his material. The rhythm section is percolating with polyrhythms between bassist Alex Blake and hand percussionist Neil Clarke. For this gig, Weston also added drummer Lewis Nash. A solid band got more solid.
Randy Weston and his African Rhythms Sextet: The Storyteller.
The set features several of Weston's finest compositions. His "African Cookbook Suite" comes in three parts and is magisterial. "Chano Pozo," of course, is a tribute to Dizzy Gillespie's great percussionist and the grand-daddy of Afro-Cuban jazz. And the classic "Hi Fly" is also here, but taken at a slow tempo with a merely implied melody—Weston then plays "Fly Hi", which is a kind of inversion of the original taken at a quick pace.
In short, The Storyteller is a vital recording from a musician who is now 85 years old. If we haven't already, it's well time to start paying close attention to his innovations.