African Rhythms: The Autobiography of Randy Weston

Overview

The pianist, composer, and bandleader Randy Weston is one of the world?s most influential jazz musicians and a remarkable storyteller whose career has spanned five continents and more than six decades. Packed with fascinating anecdotes, African Rhythms is Weston?s life story, as told by him to the music journalist Willard Jenkins. It encompasses Weston?s childhood in Brooklyn?s Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood?where his parents and other members of their generation imbued him with pride in his African heritage?and...

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African Rhythms: The Autobiography of Randy Weston

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Overview

The pianist, composer, and bandleader Randy Weston is one of the world’s most influential jazz musicians and a remarkable storyteller whose career has spanned five continents and more than six decades. Packed with fascinating anecdotes, African Rhythms is Weston’s life story, as told by him to the music journalist Willard Jenkins. It encompasses Weston’s childhood in Brooklyn’s Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood—where his parents and other members of their generation imbued him with pride in his African heritage—and his introduction to jazz and early years as a musician in the artistic ferment of mid-twentieth-century New York. His music has taken him around the world: he has performed in eighteen African countries, in Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines, in the Canterbury Cathedral, and at the grand opening of the Bibliotheca Alexandrina: The New Library of Alexandria. Africa is at the core of Weston’s music and spirituality. He has traversed the continent on a continuous quest to learn about its musical traditions, produced its first major jazz festival, and lived for years in Morocco, where he opened a popular jazz club, the African Rhythms Club, in Tangier.

Weston’s narrative is replete with tales of the people he has met and befriended, and with whom he has worked. He describes his unique partnerships with Langston Hughes, the musician and arranger Melba Liston, and the jazz scholar Marshall Stearns, as well as his friendships and collaborations with Duke Ellington, Dizzy Gillespie, Coleman Hawkins, Thelonious Monk, Billy Strayhorn, Max Roach, Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, the novelist Paul Bowles, the Cuban percussionist Candido Camero, the Ghanaian jazz artist Kofi Ghanaba, the Gnawa musicians of Morocco, and many others. With African Rhythms, an international jazz virtuoso continues to create cultural history.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Weston has dedicated his life to spreading African music throughout the world and forging a bond with his identity as an African American musician. African Rhythms ably recounts his sometimes arduous journey to becoming
a true cross-cultural ambassador.” - Jon Ross, Downbeat

“Randy Weston is a monumental figure in contemporary jazz, a man whose creativity remains undimmed at the age of 83. He is a living link with the golden era of the 1950s and 60s, a time during which trailblazing musicians and revolutionary thinkers wholly energised African-American arts and politics. As this absolutely fascinating biography reveals, Weston. . . has lived a very full life that has seen him not only excel as a musician but also make hugely important cultural and political statements that had the intent and effect of uplifting blacks in America during a time of second class citizenship. A recurrent theme in the text is thus Weston’s focus on concrete initiatives to improve civil rights. . . . Essential reading for anybody interested in learning something of a great man as well as a great musician.” - Kevin La Gendre, Jazzwise

“Randy Weston knows more about jazz and more about Africa than most of us. Hence this book—more musical, philosophical and spiritual, with a more personal voice than most jazz autobiographies—is loaded with knowledge and insights about both topics. . . . From Stearns to the Gnawa musician healers of Morocco, from poet Langston Hughes to Dizzy Gillespie, Weston’s
fascinating journey is well worth the read.” - George Kanzler, All About Jazz- New York

“No one has done more to explore and celebrate the African roots of jazz than pianist/composer Randy Weston. Weston demonstrates a pride in his ancestry and culture that is both the primary source of his artistic inspiration and the central theme that suffuses this fascinating autobiography. . . . Weston refers to himself as ‘a storyteller through music’ rather than a jazz musician. He's unsurpassed as a goodwill ambassador.” - Jay Trachtenberg, Austin Chronicle

“Now in his 80’s, Weston, in this book, sounds eternally optimistic and full of wonder about his life. He comes off as joyous and spiritual as his music. Reading this is enough to make you want to dig out whatever Weston CDs you might have and listen to them again with a greater understanding of what went into the music. This book is worthy of his expansive talents.”
- Jerome Wilson, Cadence

African Rhythms is perhaps the next truly wonderful jazz autobiography. It succeeds so fully not because of hyperbole or personality but because Weston—a pianist and composer criminally underappreciated even among serious jazz fans—has a unique musical story to tell. This story is highly recommended to jazz listeners, in large part, because it makes you want to dive back into one of the most gripping discographies in the music. . . . If you haven’t heard Weston’s music, really listened to it, then African Rhythms is the strongest possible incentive to tune in. Is there any higher praise for a book about music than that it got you to start listening?” - Will Layman, PopMatters

African Rhythms is unlike anything I’ve ever read. Randy Weston—pianist, composer, bandleader, activist, ambassador, visionary, griot—takes the reader on a most spectacular spiritual journey from Brooklyn to Africa, around the world and back again. He tells a story of this great music that has never been told in print: tracing its African roots and branches, acknowledging the ancestors who helped bring him to the music and draw the music from his soul, singing praise songs for those artistic and intellectual giants whose paths he crossed, from Langston Hughes to Melba Liston, Dizzy to Monk, Marshall Stearns to Cheikh Anta Diop. And in the process, Mr. Weston bares his soul, revealing a man overflowing with ancient wisdom, humility, respect for history, and a capacity for creating some of the most astoundingly beautiful music the modern world has ever experienced.”—Robin D. G. Kelley, author of Thelonious Monk: The Life and Times of an American Original

“Randy Weston is a magical, spiritual, ebullient, and generous soul who just happens to be one of the most original composers and pianists of the last sixty years. African Rhythms is his fascinating story in his own voice—a story that starts in Brooklyn and moves through the Berkshires, Africa, and Europe before returning to Brooklyn. A wonderful read.”—Michael Cuscuna, jazz producer and writer

Will Layman
African Rhythms is perhaps the next truly wonderful jazz autobiography. It succeeds so fully not because of hyperbole or personality but because Weston—a pianist and composer criminally underappreciated even among serious jazz fans—has a unique musical story to tell. This story is highly recommended to jazz listeners, in large part, because it makes you want to dive back into one of the most gripping discographies in the music. . . . If you haven’t heard Weston’s music, really listened to it, then African Rhythms is the strongest possible incentive to tune in. Is there any higher praise for a book about music than that it got you to start listening?”
Jay Trachtenberg
“No one has done more to explore and celebrate the African roots of jazz than pianist/composer Randy Weston. Weston demonstrates a pride in his ancestry and culture that is both the primary source of his artistic inspiration and the central theme that suffuses this fascinating autobiography. . . . Weston refers to himself as ‘a storyteller through music’ rather than a jazz musician. He's unsurpassed as a goodwill ambassador.”
Jerome Wilson
“Now in his 80’s, Weston, in this book, sounds eternally optimistic and full of wonder about his life. He comes off as joyous and spiritual as his music. Reading this is enough to make you want to dig out whatever Weston CDs you might have and listen to them again with a greater understanding of what went into the music. This book is worthy of his expansive talents.”
Kevin La Gendre
“Randy Weston is a monumental figure in contemporary jazz, a man whose creativity remains undimmed at the age of 83. He is a living link with the golden era of the 1950s and 60s, a time during which trailblazing musicians and revolutionary thinkers wholly energised African-American arts and politics. As this absolutely fascinating biography reveals, Weston. . . has lived a very full life that has seen him not only excel as a musician but also make hugely important cultural and political statements that had the intent and effect of uplifting blacks in America during a time of second class citizenship. A recurrent theme in the text is thus Weston’s focus on concrete initiatives to improve civil rights. . . . Essential reading for anybody interested in learning something of a great man as well as a great musician.”
George Kanzler
“Randy Weston knows more about jazz and more about Africa than most of us. Hence this book—more musical, philosophical and spiritual, with a more personal voice than most jazz autobiographies—is loaded with knowledge and insights about both topics. . . . From Stearns to the Gnawa musician healers of Morocco, from poet Langston Hughes to Dizzy Gillespie, Weston’s fascinating journey is well worth the read.”
Jon Ross
“Weston has dedicated his life to spreading African music throughout the world and forging a bond with his identity as an African American musician. African Rhythms ably recounts his sometimes arduous journey to becoming a true cross-cultural ambassador.”
Robin D. G. Kelley

African Rhythms is unlike anything I’ve ever read. Randy Weston—pianist, composer, bandleader, activist, ambassador, visionary, griot—takes the reader on a most spectacular spiritual journey from Brooklyn to Africa, around the world and back again. He tells a story of this great music that has never been told in print: tracing its African roots and branches, acknowledging the ancestors who helped bring him to the music and draw the music from his soul, singing praise songs for those artistic and intellectual giants whose paths he crossed, from Langston Hughes to Melba Liston, Dizzy to Monk, Marshall Stearns to Cheikh Anta Diop. And in the process, Mr. Weston bares his soul, revealing a man overflowing with ancient wisdom, humility, respect for history, and a capacity for creating some of the most astoundingly beautiful music the modern world has ever experienced.”
Michael Cuscuna

“Randy Weston is a magical, spiritual, ebullient, and generous soul who just happens to be one of the most original composers and pianists of the last sixty years. African Rhythms is his fascinating story in his own voice—a story that starts in Brooklyn and moves through the Berkshires, Africa, and Europe before returning to Brooklyn. A wonderful read.”
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780822347842
  • Publisher: Duke University Press Books
  • Publication date: 8/28/2010
  • Series: Refiguring American Music Series
  • Pages: 352
  • Sales rank: 1,463,578
  • Product dimensions: 6.50 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Randy Weston is an internationally renowned pianist, composer, and bandleader living in Brooklyn, New York. He has made more than forty albums and performed throughout the world. Weston has been inducted into the ASCAP Jazz Wall of Fame, designated a Jazz Master by the National Endowment for the Arts, and named Jazz Composer of the Year three times by DownBeat magazine. He is the recipient of many other honors and awards, including France’s Order of Arts and Letters, the Black Star Award from the Arts Critics and Reviewers Association of Ghana, and a five-night tribute at the Montreal Jazz Festival.

Willard Jenkins is an independent arts consultant, producer, educator, and print and broadcast journalist. His writing has been featured in JazzTimes, DownBeat, Jazz Report, Jazz Forum, All About Jazz, Jazzwise, and many other publications. He contributed two chapters to Ain’t Nothing like the Real Thing: How the Apollo Theater Shaped American Entertainment.

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