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Randy Weston favorites

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Someone said Weston probably never made a bad album, and that may be so.  I would say that some were, at least relatively speaking, ordinary.  But I would argue that, taken as a whole, Weston’s output is extraordinarily consistent and impressive.

 

Weston: Mosaic Select—This 3-cd set is the go-to album to appreciate the best of Weston’s early work.  Many of the very earliest records are too heavy on “standards.”  Weston would soon depend almost entirely on his own compositions, with the occasional inclusion of Monk or Duke (and a couple of African composers).  Little Niles (the album) is found here, and that is the start of Weston as a great artist. I believe that is also where Melba Liston came  in; she needs to be mentioned in almost every Weston discussion.  I also find High Life to be a great album.  It’s a bit scaled-back from the African exploration of Uhura Arika, but to these ears it’s the better album.

 

Monterey ’66—Not released until the 90s, and what a find.  This is a band in full flight and perhaps the best place to hear Weston favorites Booker Ervin,  Cecil Payne, and Ray Copeland…on fire.

 

Portraits of Monk—I find this to be the best of the “portraits” albums.  I love, love, love his long treatment of “Functional.”

The Spirits of Our Ancestors—This was my first Weston album and it remains my favorite.  Almost all the compositions had appeared earlier, but I think this was the capstone of his career.  The mid- to large-scale band did everything Randy and Melba could expect of it.  “African Sunrise” continues to be jaw-dropping.

 

Volcano Blues—Weston was certainly a man who could perform the blues every which way, and he does that here—usually with a largish, band, but there are a lot of combinations and even some vocals.  This one has possibly my favorite version of the much-recorded “Mystery of Love.”

 

Saga—Mostly a mid-size group, but also solo, duo, trio etc.  A rather diverse and thoroughly enjoyable record.  

 

Khepera—Another mid-size group, with a Chinese influence on some tracks.   The opening track, “Creation” is certainly different and even avant gardish.  It’s an  ambitious and successful album.

 

As you can see, I tend to favor the Verve years, but there is very good (and sometimes great) Weston from every period across six decades.  And he finished strong.  I really enjoy Zep Tepi (trio) and The Roots of the Blues (duo with Billy Harper).

 

    Please comment on your favorites.  

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If I were to pick one Randy Weston record for my desert island, it would likely be The Spirits of Our Ancestors.  

But I also think there's something special about his solo piano recordings. When Weston performs alone, his very personal approach to the piano is on full display. Blues to Africa (Freedom) and African Nite (Owl) are two of my favorites.

Weston's duo record with Vishnu Wood, Perspective (Denon), is another superb recording.

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Out of those three piano albums (one piano/bass) that you named, I have just one in my collection: African Nite.  That's a pretty recent acquisition. It is pretty good, but I have generally not been all that fond of the solo piano records.  It's kind of odd, since two of the concerts I saw by Weston were solo recitals--and I definitely enjoyed those.  

These more intimate settings work better for me when sprinkled in with tracks by a larger group.  For instance, I love "The Last Day" (piano/bass) as the closing track on Self Portraits.

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15 hours ago, HutchFan said:

Weston's duo record with Vishnu Wood, Perspective (Denon), is another superb recording.

👍👍👍and manny more !!!!

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Subjective choice, the first Weston I ever heard.

Image result for randy weston montreux

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I don't have one favorite, but I've enjoyed listening to these two over the years:

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weston_rand_berkshire_102b.jpg

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An early Weston favorite:
 

 

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Berkshire Blues (the album) seems like 2nd-tier Weston to me, though of course he has many great versions of that particular piece.  

 

Two versions of "Earth Birth" in the Mosaic collection, the first from Little Niles and the second this fine trio version.

 

Edited by Milestones

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380662137770.gif51ch2AjHqOL.jpg

Randy Weston, piano, celeste; Ray Copeland, trumpet, flugelhorn, arranger; Booker Ervin, tenor sax; Vishnu Wood, bass; Lenny McBrowne, drums; Big Black, conga drums, vocals; Sir Harold Murray, percussion. Nola Penthouse Sound Studios, NYC, October, 1964. Released as Randy! (Bakton BRS 1001) and later as African Cookbook (Atlantic SD 1609).

Edited by sonnymax

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I think Live at the Five Spot is an underappreciated gem.  It is quite obvious that the band didn't rehearse, so there are some rough spots.  But Hawk and KD tackled Randy's music quite well.  Lisa Lovely is surely lovely!

5158Z8ajAPL._SS500.jpg

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Never heard of this collection of various artists--no doubt an early example of something that later became ubiquitous.  

I do like this version of "Loose Wig," which is decades earlier than the one I first heard--on Saga.

 

Edited by Milestones

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It was a sampler from Dawn records. Weston made an album for them that is very good.

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OH, I agree...that is the best of his early records NOT appearing in the Mosaic set.  "Run Joe," "J.K. Blues," etc.

 

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On 8.9.2018 at 0:35 PM, JSngry said:

It was a sampler from Dawn records. Weston made an album for them that is very good.

 

On 8.9.2018 at 8:55 PM, Milestones said:

OH, I agree...that is the best of his early records NOT appearing in the Mosaic set.  "Run Joe," "J.K. Blues," etc.

You quoted this LP:

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Yes, that's the main record, and it's very, very good.

But that cut is also on the sampler with the cover in the video. I found in in a cutout bin looooong before the Dawn stuff was readily reissued.

0:00 "Start Here" - Paul Quinichette 4:57 "If I'm Lucky" - Dick Garcia & Gene Quill 8:57 "Loose Wig" - Randy Weston 12:02 "Not So Sleepy" - Mat Mathews 18:45 "Catch Her" - Les Modes 21:29 "Darn That Dream" - Alex Smith 27:19 "Bye Ya" - Zoot Sims 31:10 "Suitcase" - Gene Rowland Octet

 

 

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Mostly obscure names there once you get past Weston and Zoot Sims...oh, the track listing cuts off.  There are a few more significant figures. 

Edited by Milestones

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Posted (edited)

Can anyone recommend CD collections or multi-disc sets that include material from his earliest period, in particular the Riverside albums Trio and Solo; Randy Weston Trio; With These Hands; and Cole Porter in a Modern Mood?

I see these albums on a number of European grey-market sets on labels such as Enlightenment, but I know these can be dicey.  

Any insights into which to buy or which to avoid?  

Milestone reissued this stuff on LP in the 70s.  I'm assuming the masters must exist someplace.   Or maybe not anymore.

Edited by Teasing the Korean

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This Milestone twof,er CD has good sound and complete sessions:

R-7582619-1466591351-6718.jpeg.jpg

https://www.discogs.com/Randy-Weston-Featuring-Art-Blakey-Sam-Gill-Solo-Duo-Trio/release/7582619

The other LPs on Riverside or Dawn all were reissued on single CDs. Except for the live at the Café Bohemia album all sound good. 

After these, you will want the Mosaic Select. Indispensable.

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R-4860603-1521009321-9769.jpeg.jpgR-3310849-1325194423.jpeg.jpgR-7598328-1444842565-1923.png.jpg

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Three of these were on a Fresh Sound double CD, including the bonus track from the Blue Moon reissue of the Dawn LP:

R-15096726-1586631259-9328.jpeg.jpg

Details for all can be found on discogs. Most of them are available in second hand copies.

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Posted (edited)

Out of this lot, I favor With These Hands and The Modern Art of Jazz (How High the Moon in the version I own). 

I agree that the Mosaic offers the best of Weston's early work.

 

Edited by Milestones

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Posted (edited)

 

Quote

The Spirits of Our Ancestors—This was my first Weston album and it remains my favorite.  Almost all the compositions had appeared earlier, but I think this was the capstone of his career.  The mid- to large-scale band did everything Randy and Melba could expect of it.  “African Sunrise” continues to be jaw-dropping.

This is BY FAR my favorite Weston album (that I’ve heard), and really one of the best jazz albums of the past 30 years - the combination of compositions/arrangements and high-caliber soloists is really hard to match.

On the opposite side, the duets w/David Murray are disappointing.  I’m not sure why those two didn’t click.

Edited by Guy Berger

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"African Sunrise" was a result of a commission I offered Randy on behalf of the Chicago Jazz Festival. It was a program called "A Night In Tunisia" meant to display the African and Afro/Cuban influences in the music. Performers were Ethnic Heritage Ensemble (Kahil El’Zabar / Edward Wilkerson / Hanah-Jon Taylor, woodwinds), Randy Weston, Johnny Griffin, Richard Davis, Art Blakey (in duo and Quartet), Dizzy Gillespie Quartet w/ Walter Davis Jr. and The Machito Orchestra with Mario Grillo, percussion, leader.

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On 4/6/2021 at 11:33 AM, mikeweil said:

This Milestone twof,er CD has good sound and complete sessions:

https://www.discogs.com/Randy-Weston-Featuring-Art-Blakey-Sam-Gill-Solo-Duo-Trio/release/7582619

The other LPs on Riverside or Dawn all were reissued on single CDs. Except for the live at the Café Bohemia album all sound good. 

After these, you will want the Mosaic Select. Indispensable.

Thanks.  It looks some of these are out of print.  Since the sessions made it to Milestone, it is possible some of the grey-market multi-disc sets are digital clones.  I may spring for one of these first.  Many thanks!

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Posted (edited)

Currently on repeat listening of "Monterey '66" - spectacular live recording with lots of solo spaces - one of Randy's best lineups

What do people generally think of his so called "commercial" U/A release "Destry Rides again" - it was omitted from the Mosaic Select at Randy's request

I don't think it sounds that bad - managed to pick up a Japanese TOCJ CD release of it

Destry_Rides_Again_(album).jpeg

Edited by romualdo

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