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Randy Weston

 

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from blues, stride, and other styles. Those who found inspiration in Monk encountered a particular dilemma: how to work out a personal style in the idiom without simply mimicking his work. Among those who tackled this challenge, the premier seat must be awarded to Randy Weston.

Weston grew up in New York, where Monk befriended him, and by 1954, when he recorded his first album, it was clear that he was working on developing an original voice. Although he began by recording standards, he soon began to demonstrate his highly original writing skills, and some of his earliest compositions, such as "Pam's Waltz," "Little Niles," and "Hi-Fly," have become jazz classics. In 1955 he recorded African Sunrise, a most unusual album incorporating traditional African rhythmic and melodic elements. This release also teamed him up with the prodigious arranging talents of Melba Liston. The African connection has been part of his life to this day, and the collaboration with Liston lasted to her death in 1999.

In 1961 Weston visited Nigeria, and after other visits to the continent, he moved to Morocco. He stayed for six years and has returned there often over the years. His African experiences helped the pianist to develop further an idiosyncratic style that blended modern jazz with musical elements from different parts of the continent. He even recorded an album with the Splendid Master Gnawa Musicians of Morocco, but all of this never eroded his love of American jazz, and he has continued to explore his own works, as well as those of Monk, Ellington, and other great composers.

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