The Kennedy Center

Randy Weston


Randy Weston remains one of the world’s foremost pianists and composers, a true innovator and visionary. Steeped in the vibrant musical cultures of Africa—the result of his extensive travels there over the past four decades—Randy Weston has spent his career exploring the links between jazz and its antecedents, making music of ever-increasing power and influence. The Montreal Jazz Festival dedicated five evenings to his work in July 1995; his Volcano Blues project, for which he teamed up with Melba Liston, Johnny Copeland, Wallace Roney, Benny Powell, Talib Kibwe, Teddy Edwards, Hamiet Bluiett, Ted Dunbar, Jamil Nasser, Charli Persip, Obo Addy, and Neil Clarke, was featured at the San Francisco Jazz Festival in October of the same year.  His recordings include Spirits of Our Ancestors (Antilles), which tells the story of the roots of the blues, music that he feels is “Africa’s contribution to American music…the most ancient music that has ever existed.” Weston, who was born in Brooklyn in 1926, cites Count Basie, Nat King Cole, Art Tatum, and Duke Ellington as his piano heroes, in addition to Thelonious Monk, who exerted the most influence on him. During the 1950s Weston played around New York with Cecil Payne and Kenny Dorham, and during this time wrote many of his best loved tunes, including “Saucer Eyes,” “Pam’s Waltz,” ”Little Niles,” and his greatest hit, “Hi-Fly.”  Weston performed as a guest artist on Billy Taylor’s Jazz at the Kennedy Center, April 7, 1997, later broadcast nationwide on NPR member stations. As part of the Kennedy Center African Odyssey, Weston and his band African Rhythms, returned on March 21, 1998 to jam with the Master Gnawa Musicians of Morroco, an ensemble of traditional Moroccan musicians, in a showcase of the timelessness of African-American music.

“One literally (can) hear two continents and two epochs speaking to each other.” (Chicago Tribune).

February 2003
Photo of Randy Weston