Music can lead you places. Cosmic Jazz this week began with a tribute – but that music and life of pianist Randy Weston inspired a programme of conscious music, some of it linking jazz to the African continent and the roots of this music. Click the Mixcloud tab left and join this important , soul-enriching and uplifting journey.
Randy Weston was born in 1926 and died died on 1 September this year. Raised in New York, he was conscious of his musical roots early on and began spending time in Africa – firstly, Nigeria and then Morocco to where he moved full time in the late 1960s. Weston was deeply influenced by the music he heard there, playing with Moroccan musicians and being inspired by African Liberation movements. The Spirits Of Our Ancestors was recorded in 1991 and the lineup included fellow distinguished musicians Dizzy Gillespie, Pharaoh Sanders and Idris Muhammad. The 2CD album is an eloquent tribute and homage to jazz music’s African musical ancestors with Weston’s approach to life and music encapsulated in the liner notes – which celebrate the universal musical language that transcends race, color and nationality. We shall play more.
From there, it seemed appropriate to include music that is rooted in Black/African conscious thought or has strong links to the roots of jazz. Michele Hendricks, daughter of singer Jon, produced a fine version ofMarvin Gaye’s What’s Going On, a deceptively gentle commentary on the black repression, the struggles for liberty and the Vietnam War in the 1960s. The original version is jazz-inflected, but this one takes the jazz much further. You can find it on Jazz Dance Fusion, a compilation released last year by Manchester DJ Colin Curtis.
Here at Cosmic Jazz we never expected that Sons of Kemet would win the Mercury Music Prize – and they didn’t. The reporting of the event made little mention of them but we can only hope the messages from the album and the sales have now gone wider than before. The queen chosen for musical respect this week was academic, author and activist Angela Davis, who interestingly, is emeritus professor in the History of Consciousness Department at the University of California, Santa Cruz. She has been long in the struggles and has survived attempts to jail her and to sack her, the latter by President Ronald Reagan.
It seemed appropriate, while remembering Randy Weston, to include further links to the continent of Africa. Mulatu Astatke is an Ethiopian musician whose distinctive music merges jazz and Latin sounds to the traditional music of his country. He is the founder of Ethio-jazz. He has travelled the world and trained in London, New York and Boston. Here he is heard with British musicians the Heliocentrics. British group Kokoroko travel the other way. They are part of the youthful and exciting scene of new jazz in the UK. Their tune from the compilation We Out Here pays tribute to Abusey Junction, a place in the Gambia where musicians/griots meet and play.
One of the highs of playing music on a show like Cosmic Jazz is that we are not limited to new releases or to a pre-planned time schedule. We can play long tunes and there are two very long ones opn this week’s show. One was the Randy Weston tune that opened the show, the other was the one to end it. Cannonball Adderley’s live Black Messiah recording from the Troubador Club, Los Angeles in 1971 seemed to some up the hopes, aspirations and ambition of the music played this week.
- Randy Weston – African Cookbook from The Spirits Of Our Ancestors
- Michele Hendricks – What’s Going On from Colin Curtis presents Jazz Dance Fusion
- Sons of Kemet – My Queen is Angela Davis from Your Queen is a Reptile
- Mulatu Astatke & the Heliocentrics – Cha Cha from Inspiration, Information Vol 3
- Kokoroko – Abusey Junction from We Out Here
- Cannonball Adderley – Black Messiah from Black Messiah
Derek is listening to……