A powerful pianist who is a student and teacher of ancient African folk and musical culture, Randy Weston (b. 1926) developed out of the style of Thelonious Monk to become a major force in music.
Weston grew up as part of the musical scene in Brooklyn. He started his career in the late 1940s playing with r&b bands, also working with baritonist Cecil Payne and trumpeter Kenny Dorham. He made his first recordings as a leader for Riverside during 1954-1956.
Solo, Duo & Trio features Weston playing eight Cole Porter songs as duets with bassist Sam Gill, adding drummer Art Blakey to his group for six numbers and taking four tunes as unaccompanied piano solos. Even at that early stage, it seemed obvious that Weston was heading for greatness. Get Happy is a trio set with Gill and drummer Wilbert Hogan that includes a few standards, an offbeat version of “Twelfth Street Rag,” and Weston’s “Fire Down There,” a calypso soon renamed “St. Thomas” by Sonny Rollins.
With These Hands, a quartet set with baritonist Cecil Payne, is most notable for having the original version of Weston’s “Little Niles.” Weston also utilizes Payne on his live 1956 project Jazz à la Bohemia which includes “Just a Riff,” “Chessman’s Delight,” and the calypso “Hold ’Em Joe.”
Although sounding quite mature throughout these performances, Randy Weston had many accomplishments ahead of him. He wrote the jazz standard “Hi-Fly,” collaborated with arranger-trombonist Melba Liston on several major projects, lived in Morocco during 1968-1973, and recorded many significant albums while remaining true to himself and his musical vision.