An adapted version of an e-mail Ran sent out earlier this month encouraging students to attend an April 18 workshop and a performance by Randy Weston at NEC:
There’s no living pianist who has a greater sense of history than Randy Weston.
I first became aware of Randy when I was a student at Bard College, and I picked up a 10-inch LP, Randy Weston Plays Cole Porter In A Modern Mood. I was certain I was hearing a new emerging Monk. Randy reframed so many of the beloved Porter melodies and avoided many of the common ii-V cliches.
A year later I attended my first of four years at Lenox School of Jazz. At that time, Randy was the house pianist at the Avaloch Inn, which was just a half-mile down the road from Wheatleigh. Also known as the “Music Inn,” this was owned by Philip and Stephanie Barber at the time and was a part of the Lenox School of Jazz.
Randy was studying with Dr. Willis Laurence James of Morehouse College and Spelman College. Dr. James was also one of my favorite professors, and I can still hear his field cries. We would walk on the Housatonic River and he would tell us stories of his father, who was a slave. He sang/moaned these cries … I’ve never heard anything like it. My first song on Wende (Owl Records, 1976) is dedicated to him.
At that time, Randy composed two pieces, “Little Niles” and “Hi-Fly,” which became immediate jazz standards that are still studied today.