Randy Weston was 84 years old at the time of this 2009 concert at Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola, though the veteran pianist and composer manages to convey the spirit of someone much younger as he conveys the wisdom of his many years as a performer. Most of the musicians who make up his African Rhythms band are veterans of many concerts and recordings with Weston, including saxophonist T.K. Blue, trombonist Benny Powell, bassist Alex Blake, and African percussionist Neil Clarke, while this is the first recording to feature veteran drummer Lewis Nash with the pianist. Weston opens the show with his Cuban-flavored "Chano Pozo" (dedicated to the fiery percussionist who worked with Dizzy Gillespie), an extended introspective solo that leads directly into the brooding "African Sunrise." In a humorous twist, Blue quotes several songs played by Gillespie and Pozo (including "Manteca," "Hot House," and "A Night in Tunisia"), though Powell steals the show with his solo as the song shifts to a lighter mood. The pianist's well-known "Hi Fly" has been part of his repertoire for decades, but he throws his fans a twist by approaching it in a more subtle manner, playing it softly and slowly, showcasing Powell in top form. Then Weston segues into "Fly Hi," a derivative piece cast in a breezy Afro-Cuban setting. The bandleader also revisits his timeless "The African Cookbook Suite" (which still sounds fresh nearly a half-century after it was first recorded). "The Shrine" is a dramatic, haunting work featuring brilliant unison lines by Blue (on flute) with Powell's muted trombone. Well recorded with a respectful, quiet audience, this live recording captures Randy Weston & His African Rhythms on a peak evening.
The Storyteller Review
by Ken Dryden