Volume 81, Number 16 | September 15 - 21, 2011
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933
VILLAGE JAZZ ALIVE
Village Jazz Legends Award presented to Randy Weston by the Greenwich Village-Chelsea Chamber of Commerce
Monday, September 26, 7pm
At the Blue Note Jazz Club
(131 W. 3rd St., btw. Sixth & MacDougal)
For tickets ($75-100) and info, call Tom Gray at 646-470-1773
Price includes cocktails, dinner, awards
Proceeds support GVCC’s mission to assist and encourage local businesses to grow
Visit villagechelsea.com, randyweston.info
Photo by Carol Friedman
Randy Weston: Dues paid, and set to get his reward (in the form of a prestigious award).
Village Jazz Alive keeps jazz, in Village, alive
Weston to receive 2011’s “Legends” award
BY JERRY TALLMER
You’d better call him now, Elizabeth said, because he’s leaving for Paris at 4pm.
Elizabeth is Elizabeth Butson, publisher emeritus of this newspaper — her husband, the late Thomas Butson, made it what it is today — and the 4 o’clock winger to Paris was and is Randy Weston, piano player, composer, arranger, bandleader, one of the greats in the world of jazz.
Yes, he said over the phone from his home in Brooklyn, he had just flown in from Chicago and was now leaving for Paris at 4pm, but there was plenty of time. What did I want to know?
“Didn’t I used to see you at the Village Gate?” I asked.
“Of course you did. Many times, in the ‘50s and early ‘60s. Art D’Lugoff” — impresario of the intercultural — “put me opposite Miriam Makeba. Art was just wonderful.”
At 7pm on September 26, a Monday, at the historied Blue Note Jazz Club on West 3rd Street, Randy Weston is to receive the 2011 Village Jazz Legends Award award from the Greenwich Village-Chelsea Chamber of Commerce.
It is the third such award in four years. The first one went to the great singer and civil rights warrior, Odetta Holmes, shortly before her death in 2008. The second one went to the Village Gate’s Art D’Lugoff, also now gone.
All of this is the brainchild of Elizabeth Butson. She first met Weston in 2010, at the BMCC’s Tribeca Performing Arts Center during a 50th anniversary celebration of his 1960 “Uhuru Afrika” recording.
“I was just amazed by his performance,” she says.
Randy Weston was born — in Brooklyn, where else? — April 6, 1926. He is 85 years old. Here is a partial itinerary of his current activity:
Just back from Chicago, where he was celebrating the life and times of his longtime collaborator, Melba Liston (1926-1999), arranger and musician. “A great trombonist,” Weston says. “First woman I ever heard play the trombone, and a great one.”
September 4: Paris, France, to play with his trio — Alex Blake, bass; Neil Clarke, African percussion — “at a lovely little park called La Villette.” (He has lately played for the kids and old folk at another lovely little park, under the Brooklyn Bridge, USA.
From Paris to Morocco for a week or so, just to visit friends — the gwana, or musicians, of black Africa.
Morocco is where a younger Randy Weston spent seven years at “the source,” soaking up African rhythms and chords, “just hanging out with people from the Sahara to the mountains.”
September 22: Washington, D.C., to play for the Congressional Black Caucus.
September 26: Blue Note Jazz Club.
Randy Weston has lived in the time of all the great jazz pianists, and been shaped by them all: Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Art Tatum, Earl Hines and Nat King Cole.
“Royalty,” he says.
And Monk — big brooding Thelonious Monk. I know that Art D’Lugoff worshipped him, this listener dares to say on the phone to Randy Weston, but I never cottoned to Thelonious Monk,
“Too much for you?” says Weston, dryly with a laugh. “Well, Monk was my man.”
Art D’Lugoff, may he rest in peace, was the prime mover of another memorable event. They [the cops] banned Billie Holiday’s return to New York for a jam-packed, unforgettable Village Voice midnight booking at Loew’s Sheridan Theatre. “I was there,” Weston says. “That’s when I met Billie Holiday.” I was there too. I drove her up that night from Philadelphia.
Randolph Weston — “Randolph, that’s what my dad dropped on me”— has three daughters, a son “who died too young,” and an African wife with a lovely soft voice.
That father, Frank Weston, ran a restaurant in Brooklyn — “he was a great chef” — and told young Randolph he’d better study African civilization.
“I went to P.S. 82, to P.S. 210, to Boys High and to the local library. Started piano lessons kind of late — at 14. At 17, began doing local gigs — weddings and so forth. At 24 I finally worked up the courage to play professionally.”
The story before and since is told in “The Autobiography of Randy Weston” (Duke University Press).
“The Village,” Elizabeth Butson says, “has a long tradition of being a cradle for artistic expression and individuality. We are proud to have launched the Village Jazz Alive series in support of music culture in the Village.” To help keep that tradition going — and to give local businesses a boost in tough economic times — she four years ago created the Village Jazz Legends Award.
The September 26 gala at the Blue Note is a benefit for the Greenwich Village-Chelsea Chamber of Commerce. It will be capped by a concert by the Randy Weston Quintet: Weston, at the piano; Talib Kibwe, on alto sax and flute; Neil Clarke, African percussion; Bill Harper, baritone sax; Sani Debriano, bass.
“You know,” Randy Weston says, “I’m in the world of culture rather than showbiz.”
African culture, in large part. “Most people think jazz began in New Orleans,” Brooklyn’s Randy Weston says. “Well we’re a lot older than New Orleans.”
Then he went to catch a plane.