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Reviewers: Tony Augarde [Editor], Steve Arloff, Nick Barnard, Pierre Giroux, Don Mather, James Poore, Glyn Pursglove, George Stacy, Bert Thompson, Sam Webster, Jonathan Woolf



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RANDY WESTON

Four Classic Albums Plus Volume 2

AVID JAZZ AMSC 1155

 

 

CD1

The Modern Art of Jazz

1. Loose Wig

2. Run Joe

3. A Theme for Teddy

4. In a Little Spanish Town

5. Don't Blame Me

6. J & K Blues

7. You Needn't

8. How High the Moon

Piano a la Mode

9. Earth Birth

10. Nobody Knows the Trouble I've Seen

11. Saucer Eyes

12. I Got Rhythm

13. Gingerbread

14. Cocktails for Two

15. Honeysuckle Rose

16. Fe-double-U Blues

Little Niles

17. Earth Birth

18. Little Susan

CD2

1. Nice Ice

2. Little Niles

3. Pam's Waltz

4. Babe's Blues

5. Let's Climb a Hill

Live at the Five Spot

6. High Fly

7. Beef Blues Stew

8. Where

9. Spot Five Blues

10. Star Crossed Lovers

11. Lisa Lovely

Destry Rides Again

12. We're Ladies

13. I Know Your Kind

14. Anyone Would Love You

15. Once Knew a Fella

16. That Ring On the Finger

17. I Say Hello


Randy Weston (piano) with: on The Modern Art of Jazz Cecil Payne (baritone and alto sax): Ray Copeland (trumpet): Ahmed Abdul-Malik (bass): Willie Jones and Wilbert Hogan (drums) On Piano A La Mode: Peck Morrison (bass): Connie Kay (drums) On Little Niles: Ray Copeland (trumpet): Idrees Sulieman (trumpet) Melba Liston (trombone, arranger): Johnny Griffin (tenor sax): George Joyner (bass): Charlie Persip (drums) on Live at the Five Spot Kenny Dorham (trumpet): Coleman Hawkins (tenor sax): Wilbur Little (bass): Clifford Jarvis/Roy Haynes (drums): Brock Peters (vocals): On Destry Rides Again

Melba Liston, Frank Rehak, Slide Hampton, Bennie Green (trombones):

Willie Rodriguez (conga): Peck Morrison (bass): Elvin Jones (drums)

Recorded 1956-60 [78:31 + 78:51]


Randy Weston has been given something of a supercilious ride by some critics but a twofer such as this, culled from LPs made between 1956 and 1960, reveals many of his very considerable strengths. Its not enough to write off his Monkish affiliations. True, they were integral stylistically and informed something of the rhythmic basis of his playing and, to an extent, composing. But when overlaid with strong chromaticism, as can be heard in The Modern Art of Jazz, they extended the vocabulary of his pianism still further. But Weston had plenty in his armoury besides these clear antecedents. He was attuned to the Caribbean vibe, as can be savoured in Run Joe from the same album, and with a thoroughly tight band with a front line of Cecil Payne and Ray Copeland - the corporate sound is bright and burnished. His interest in the waltz as a jazz vehicle is evident and his slight air of (occasional) frivolity a quality I admire can be experienced in his leads and comping on J&K Blues.

Piano a la Mode is a Spring 1957 trio session with Peck Morrison and Connie Kay. Half of the eight tracks are Weston originals, several featuring his characteristic humming-along, and some once again are in waltz time. Nobody Knows the Trouble Ive Seen is unusually romanticised, avoiding the temptations of the dirge, whilst I Got Rhythm is free and easy, at one point heavily on the beat, and at another full of locked chords. He gives a Monkish twist to Fats Honeysuckle Rose. Weston was of part Caribbean descent which imbues Little Susan, from the Little Niles LP with great vitality. Connoisseurs of the original overwritten sleeve notes will enjoy the words of Harlem Renaissance maestro, Langston Hughes who, for reasons best known to others, seems to be making a posthumous comeback. This album features Johnny Griffin as well as the arrangements of Melba Liston whose somewhat melodramatically filmic work on the title track is one of the many waltz themes that saturate this LP.

A meatier date was Live at the Five Spot, a seat-of-the-pants session that saw Weston team with Coleman Hawkins, Kenny Dorham, Wilbur Little and Roy Haynes for some fantastic live music making on 26 October 1959. Hawk soars, punchy and rhapsodic, on High Fly and he takes a searing long solo on Spot Five Blues at least until he runs out of steam. Everyone is on fine form here though its best to ignore the awful singing of Brock Peters on Where (why would have been a better question). Note that tracks 9 and 10 have been swapped something that Ive noted before in Avids productions and one of the few sloppy things about their work other than inaccurate track timings (Lets Climb a Hill lasts 5:51 not 3:51). The last tracks come from Destry Rides Again, with arrangements once more by Liston. This is a jaunty, rather disposable affair with Weston and a four-person trombone choir essaying rinky-dink film music.

At Avids price bracket their second excursion into the waltz-drenched world of Randy Weston contains many a golden nugget.

Jonathan Woolf



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