Blues to Africa
Arista/Freedom : 1975
In the Venn diagram depicting Randy Weston’s influences and stylistic affinities, there would be overlaps with Monk, Ellington, perhaps Abdullah Ibrahim, Morocco, Tangier, Nigeria. And a large part of it would remain Weston himself, unshadowed and unaccompanied. Blues to Africa lives up to its title, evoking Brooklyn playgrounds and Marrakech marketplaces with equal ease. Weston’s stark tunes are complex in conception, organically merging jazz harmonies and African rhythms with the occasional passage of bracing dissonance.
These two tracks, recorded thirty-two years ago almost to the day, capture Weston in an especially playful mood, drawing inspiration from both sides of the Atlantic. “Kasbah Kids” — a cockeyed nursery rhyme; chiming, playful, simple but never simplistic. Monk in a red helium balloon. “African Village/Bed-Stuy” — a rolling blue strut, unique to no land, recognizable in all. Nod your head, tip your hat, say good morning.
Blues to Africa was among the first wave of releases on the Arista imprint Freedom, which generated a phenomenal string of great albums. Remember when majors supported adventurous jazz? Me neither. Weston’s site has a very detailed page devoted to this album (and more), including the original liner notes; you can also stream snippets from each of the disk’s eight tracks.