IN MEMORY OF
Polydor : 1973
RW, piano, Fender Rhodes organ; Ernie Royal, trumpet, flugelhorn; Ray Copeland, trumpet, flugelhorn; Jon Faddis, trumpet, flugelhorn; Al Grey, trombone; Jack Jeffers, trombone; Julius Watkins, french horn; Norris Turney, alto sax, picolo; Budd Johnson, tenor and soprano sax, clarinet; Billy Harper, tenor sax, flute; Danny Bank, baritone sax, baritone clarinet, flute; Taiwo Yusve Divall, alto sax, ashiko drums; Ahmed-Abdul Malik, oud; Ron Carter, bass; Earl Williams, percussion; Azzedin Weston, percussion; Candido Camero, percussion; Omar Clay, marimba, timbales; Rudy Collins, drums. Melba Liston, arranger and director.
To ward off the dog days, we offer our open-the-fire-hydrants-and-cool-your-ass-down summer special. These tracks from Randy Weston’s Tanjah are full of funky grooves, steamy rhythms, and laid-back grit. Forget the jazz connotations, these tracks would sound perfect pumping from car stereos and boom boxes, livening up the sidewalks and offering some counterpoint to the heat.
Randy Weston’s career has been so consistent in quality that it’s easy to underestimate his music. Same goes for Tanjah itself, which was in print for ages, its availability leading it to be overlooked for rarer grails. But make no mistake: This 1973 joint is a classic. The songs are so sheerly pleasurable that you might initially miss their sprawling ambitions. Weston, arranger Melba Liston, and the crack big band create a remarkable fusion of east and west, traditional african and contemporary soul, adventurous textures and seductive grooves, big band and sleek combo.
“In Memory Of” sports the sort of indelible funk groove that you’d usually hear over at Oliver Wang’s Soul-Sides. Ron Carter lays down one of his most mesmerizing basslines, Weston displays a seductive touch on the Fender Rhodes, and the big band effortlessly slides in and out of the tune. Muy caliente. The opening notes are begging to be looped for some killer hip hop joint.
The title track is more orchestral, placing the fusion of Eastern and Western styles front and center. Here, Ellington and the oud are one. The combination of cosmic sweep and tight ensemble playing it recalls some of Alice Coltrane and McCoy Tyner’s work. “Jamaica East” offers more room for Weston’s keyboard skills to shine against a lush backdrop of horns and wicked and infectious rhythms. File under: “If you’re not feeling these, you’re probably having a stroke.”
& & & & &
AUGUST RE-RUNS: We’re taking a break from new posts, but that doesn’t mean the music is stopping. We’re planning to re-up a slew of old posts over the coming weeks. What do you want to hear again? Scan the three years of archives and let us know in the comments or via email or Facebook or Twitter and we’ll do our best to oblige.