Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Randy Weston - African Cookbook

One of my favorite jazz musicians of all-time is pianist Randy Weston. Throughout his brilliant and long career the Brooklyn born native has written and performed some of the world's finest African-influenced jazz compositions of the past century. His compositions often blend together bebop-styled jazz with African rhythms and grooves to produce a compelling and captivating signature sound. His music and recordings were partly responsible for turning me on to jazz. When I first encountered Weston's music a number of years ago, I was listening to a lot of sixties and seventies era Afrobeat, Afro funk, and high-life records. After coming across Weston's 1972 album African Cookbook, I became immediately intrigued by how his music incorporated African influences into his overall sound. For me, his music ended up becoming the gateway into jazz.

The title track to Weston's African Cookbook record has overtime become one of my all-time favorite compositions. This jazz piece, which is slightly over twelve minutes in length and actually recorded back in 1964, consists of Weston's Thelonious Monk-like piano playing backed by some funky percussion rhythms that help define the compositions overall groove. The lineup includes Booker Ervin (tenor saxophone), Ray Copeland (trumpet), Vishnu Wood (bass), Lenny McBrowne (drums), as well as a number of percussionists including Big Black and Sir Harold Murray. Overall, "African Cookbook" is considered by some jazz scholars as one of the greatest African jazz composition ever composed. For what it's meant to me personally, as it helped open my ears to a whole genre of music, I would have to agree with those scholars high-praise.

Randy Weston - African Cookbook

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