Randy Weston Trio | Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Randy Weston Trio 

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RANDY WESTON TRIO

What with technology turning the world into a global village and all, we've started to take cross-cultural musical fusion for granted. But when pianist-composer Randy Weston was making his first waves in the jazz world, a guy still had to visit a place to absorb its zeitgeist. Weston, now 71, was a student of Thelonious Monk, whose influence can be heard most clearly on Weston's terrific 50s bebop recordings. During that era he penned enduring originals like "Hi-Fly," "Berkshire Blues," and "Little Niles"--tunes so embedded in bebop's vocabulary that if Weston had stopped there he would still be important. But it was in the 60s that he really blew jazz wide open. In the early part of the decade he toured Africa and subsequently began emphasizing complex African polyrhythms, a crucial ingredient in jazz. But whereas drummers like Art Blakey and Max Roach had done the same thing percussively, Weston achieved it in a fully integrated way, transforming the quirky Monkish flavor of his playing into a full-fledged rhythmic gumbo; his compositions spurred his soloists to transcend bebop as well. In 1968 he moved to Tangiers, where he operated a nightclub for five years. There he began his long musical relationship with the Gnawa--a Moroccan religious fraternity whose members are descended from slaves--from whom he gleaned the trance element heard in some of his subsequent compositions. When he performs here, in a trio format, he'll probably mix the 50s classics that appear on the forthcoming Earth Birth (on which the vitality of his playing is partially obscured by incongruously romantic strings) and his brilliant Afro-jazz compositions. Weston has played Chicago only twice this decade, so this opportunity shouldn't be taken lightly. Tuesday through Thursday, 8 and 10 PM, next Friday and Saturday, May 9 and 10, 9 and 11 PM, and next Sunday, May 11, 4, 8, and 10 PM, Jazz Showcase, 59 W. Grand; 312-670-2473. PETER MARGASAK

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Photo of Randy Weston by Carol Friedman.

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