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The Blues - Out of America

Randy Weston and Billy Harper - Duo Series

Randy Weston took to the stage and seemed all about business, he announced the evening’s performance would be dedicated to the blues. He proceeded to hammer out powerful chords that resonated wildly in the dim and dark cavernous Fermenting Cellar of the Historic Distillery District. Billy Harper came on equally as strong with a muscular tenor tone, stirring the soul and captivating the listener with his intensity. The first blues tune was a traditional twelve bar blues, each musician playing extended statements on the basic melody, sometimes branching out into other realms but converging back into blues territory to make for a refreshing start to the indoor side of the concert series.

The second tune was more rhythm and blues, with a good helping of American classical musings from Mr. Weston, a musical speech, perhaps on the status of jazz in the world followed. With all manner of emotion mixed into the fray - as if to highlight the blues in the universe. Randy Weston blazed through minuets with Monk like phrasing and Ellington sophistication, fast paced classical sounding jazz romps in every direction of the keyboard including the foot pedals, you had a sense of a percussive background, a world music dialogue. He finished the song and explained to the audience, "The foundation of our music is the blues." The song entitled "Berkshire Blues" a song composed while in Massachusetts, had an introduction by Weston, repeating the melody, a catchy line that is played a few times, Harper enters the tune with a crying, moaning, midrange fire, a very soothing sound envelopes the historical brine facility. Harper plays with so much soul and passion, yet there is no rush, or sense of urgency as his notes are meticulously picked from the horn and played for the audience’s spiritual delight.

Mr. Weston explained how his association with Mr. Harper came about in Tangier, Morocco in 1972, this is when Harper and Weston first played together, it was at the Tangier Festival of African and Afro-American Music. Harper had been scheduled to perform with Max Roach's group, but a ticket mix-up stranded Roach in the States, Harper ended up playing with Mr. Weston’s group on the third day of the festival. The song they next performed was dedicated to that memory "Tangier" a fast start to the rhythm, with a change in tempo halfway through, slowing down to a crawl. The highlight of the performance a saxophone solo by Harper, deep soulful playing that sounded as a mix of melodic and discordant tones that were soothing yet haunting, an emotional saxophonist who takes leaps from the low register to the highs, always moving, a highly rhythmic player with a blazing tone, the blues doesn’t get any better than this.

Other gorgeously crafted tunes written by Mr. Weston and performed by the duet, "African Sunrise", "The Beauty Of It All" and "For Healers" dedicated to our ancient ancestors. The performance took the audience on a healing, soothing and stimulating journey through two master story tellers’ interpretations of world music. As Mr. Weston put it, "Music is the best healer."

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Randy Weston & Billy Harper
  • Concert Date: 6/6/2008
  • Subtitle: Art of Jazz Celebration 2008
  • Venue: The Fermenting Cellar
  • City State Country: Toronto, On. Canada
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