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Monday, February 20, 2012

  • Black History Special: Jazz Legend Randy Weston on His Life and Celebration of "African Rhythms"

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    In a Black History Month special, today we spend the hour with the legendary pianist and composer Randy Weston. For the past six decades, Weston has been a pioneering jazz musician incorporating the vast rhythmic heritage of Africa. His most famous compositions include "Little Niles," "Blue Moses" and "Hi-Fly," and his 1960 album, "Uhuru Afrika," was a landmark recording that celebrated the independence movements in Africa and the influence of traditional African music on jazz. The record, which began with a freedom poem written by Langston Hughes, would later be banned by the South African apartheid regime, along with albums by Max Roach and Lena Horne. In 1961, Randy Weston visited Africa for the first time as part of a delegation that also featured Nina Simone. The trip would transform Weston’s life and lead him to eventually move to Africa in 1967. In 2001, he was named a Jazz Master by the National Endowment for the Arts, considered to be the nation’s highest honor in jazz. Weston talks about his collaboration with Langston Hughes, how Marcus Garvey and Paul Robeson influenced his life, his friendship with the Nigerian afrobeat star Fela Kuti, and his success with "having the people understand the impact of African rhythms in world music, whether it’s Brazil or Cuba or Mississippi or Brooklyn. If you don’t have that African pulse, nothing is happening," Weston said. Now 85 years old, Weston continues to tour the world, and in 2010, he published "African Rhythms: The Autobiography of Randy Weston." [includes rush transcript]