VOICES Notes and news on Jazz releases
14 MAY 13 CHRIS SLAWECKI
Randy Weston is well established in his career as a composer, pianist and international jazz ambassador, known around the globe as a critical conduit through which the musical tributaries between US, Europe and Africa flow. But, Weston’s countenance beams from the cover of Get Happy like the young, enthusiastic high school yearbook portrait of someone you met much later in their life.
Weston’s first (10-inch) vinyl title for Riverside Records, a 1955 piano trio date released as an Original Jazz Classics in 1995, Get Happy is one of Weston’s earliest displays of his own musical vision, albeit expressed through the prism of familiar titles and themes. Weston unwinds long melodic lines from Ellington’s classic “C-Jam Blues” like unraveling strings of funky pearls, digs into the earthy roots of a warm and blooming “Summertime,” and bookends this set with spirited New Orleans playing (the title track to open, the “Twelfth Street Rag” to close) that shows he knows his roots. His airy playing leaves room in every tune no matter how compact. Weston plays a lot of music, not always a lot of notes.
Other Weston piano trio dates include his 1956 studio session With These Hands… (OJC, 1996) and ‘56 performance Jazz A La Bohemia (OJC, 1990), each featuring quartet tracks with saxophonist Cecil Payne. Many cite Bud Powell and Thelonious Monk as their styles shine through Weston’s early playing. Who could be better artists for a young pianist, searching for himself, to submerge himself in that pursuit?