Saturday, September 08, 2018

Randy Weston was both a great and wise musician

My very existence dictates that before the importance of music in my life comes pride as a black man; even if I didn't play music I'd still be fighting and striving for black people. Music has been a way for me to convey that struggle; I've been blessed, gifted by the Creator with the power of music. But before the music came tremendous pride, coupled with anger at what racism has done to my people. That foundation of dignity and strength comes from growing up in a segregated, racist society; growing up alongside people who were considered a 'minority'. I was endowed with the belief that 'I know no man is better than me', so as a result I grew up spiritual but irate at our collective condition as a people.
Jazz legend Randy Weston died on Sept. 1 aged 92, and that quote is taken from his autobiography African Rhythms. In the 1950s Randy Weston's trio was resident at the Music Inn resort in the Berkshires, where in those pre-filter bubble days the audience included Leonard Bernstein and musicians from the Boston Symphony Orchestra. The trio's bassist was the African American Sam Gill, who went on to become principal bass for the Denver Symphony. Randy Weston's later collaborations with gnawa musicians from Morocco meant that he appeared several times on the Overgrown Path. There have been many great musicians, but very few wise ones. Randy Weston was both a great and a wise musician, as this very relevant extract from African Ryhythms shows:
The Sufi teaches us that the music is the first thing that changes. When you have ordinary times you get ordinary music, and everything follows the ordinary music. When you have a creative time, that's when you have the powerful, creative music, not just here but all over the world. But when the music changes, when you get the junk and things are copied, you get an ordinary society.
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