Randy Weston

Sam Pawlett rsp at SPAMuniserve.com
Mon Aug 14 19:41:03 MDT 2000

Louis Proyect wrote:
> Since I was on vacation last week and didn't have to get up early, I
> decided to treat myself to some live music at one of NYC's pricier
> nightclubs. Like Glen Gould, I generally prefer recordings to live
> performances since there are fewer distractions.

Weston has some fine records, Carnival being the best (imo). The solo
"Self-Portraits" series is good and if you prefer the ensemble playing
the stuff with Melba Liston. The early '50's recordings like Jazz a la
Bohemia are interesting showing Weston's early interest in African
rhythyms and melody.

> Now if I could only play
> the piano like he did...

Gould  had considerable technique and he is an icon in Canada, nary a
day goes by without the CBC radio having some kind of program or
reference to Gould. It is how he used that technique that is
problematic. Too much staccato and accenting makes some of his playing
like his Bach cold, hard and unrelenting and his Beethoven sounds like
someone playing from a score without accent marks. The constant
vocalizing is a major irritant though this didn't get really bad until
the late 60's. He deliberately butchered
composers he didn't like e.g. Chopin and Mozart and often played things
as fast as he could just so he could get out of the recording studio.
That said, I think he is most at home in the Viennese school, the late
romantics like Sibelius and baroque-renaissance composers like Byrd and
Buxtehude.  In Gould's hands Schoenberg, Berg and Webern become romantic
composers and his versions of their piano output is definitive paralled
maybe only by Maria Yudina (Stalin's favorite pianist).

> I have been listening to Randy Weston's African influenced jazz for the
> better part of 40 years but I have never heard him perform in person.

I saw him once performing solo. Disappointing compared to Dollar Brand
(s.African pianist) who performed the night before on the sam e piano.

> With his latest band, Weston blends his Monk-like piano style with a very
> unusual rhythm section.

Weston's groups like Dollar Brands are more inclined towards ensemble
playing than the usual theme-and-solos of jazz. This is the African
influence I think where there is little soloing even in music that would
seem to demand it like sou-kous.

Sam Pawlett

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