NEA Jazz Master, pianist and composer Randy Weston will be releasing a 2-CD set titled The African Nubian Suite on his African Rhythms Label on January 20. The set will document a live performance that took place in New York University’s Skirball Center for the Performing Arts by the Institute of African American Affairs on Easter Sunday 2012.
On this occasion, Weston was joined by a diverse cast of international performers; some played without accompaniment, others as duos, trios, and larger ensembles. Featured artists included trumpeter Cecil Bridgewater, trombonist Robert Trowers, tuba player Howard Johnson, saxophonist-flutist T.K. Blue, tenor saxophonist Billy Harper and bassist Alex Blake to name but a few.
The concept of this performance was quite ambitions: it aimed to lay out the history of the human race in music and words. Weston and narrator Wayne Chandler traced it back to Ardi, a woman who walked upright 4.4 million years ago in Nubia, a region along the Nile River that straddles parts of what are today Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia.
Weston explained: “the whole idea is that we’re all so different on this planet, but in reality, we all look alike. If you look at the flowers and look at the insects, Mother Nature paints all the colors of her subjects. One is brown. This one is black. Whatever. We’ve got one nose, one mouth. The whole idea is we all come from the same place. We all come from Africa. It’s scientifically true, culturally true.”
At 90-years-old, Randy Weston remains a powerful force in jazz. He is currently serving as artist-in-residence at Medgar Evers College at the City University of New York. He was recently celebrated at Harvard University, which has acquired his archive. He also regularly performs with his various groups, mainly Wetson’s African Rhythms Trio and The Randy Weston African Rhythm Quintet.
A CD release show for The African Nubian Suite in New York City is in currently in the works; details are expected to be announced soon. For more information, go to http://www.randyweston.info/