Randy Weston

Earth Birth

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Recorded in Montreal with 24 strings from the Montreal Symphony and two can't-miss jazz cohorts, bassist Christian McBride and drummer Billy Higgins, here we have another reunion between Weston and arranger Melba Liston in a collection of mostly early Weston tunes, some dating back to the early 1950s. The strings sound unearthly, as if they were recorded in a dead studio (the locale is the Ludget-Duvernay Hall of Montreal's Monument National), and even though Liston blends them with the piano in an integral manner, they respond stiffly; it's an uneasy, not terribly imaginative fusion. The most famous Weston tune, "Hi-Fly," is completely retooled into a cocktail-hour ballad -- it also features quite an intricate string chart -- and composer Weston enjoys poking around the tune's angles and corners. Coming after his exciting African experiments in the '90s, this CD, despite Weston's sharply etched solos, is a relatively minor nostalgic effort.

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