Diasporic Music: Randy Weston, Jimmy Reid and African artists from Mali

Randy Weston’s “Roots of the Blues”
Whenever I call, Randy Weston answers. Weston has supported me and my crew whether it was on Uhuru Radio or CKLN-FM 88.1, now Radio Re­gent. The man who calls his mu­sic African Rhythms has always supported Africans at home and around the world.
His new album “Roots of the Blues” was released in the United States on November 19, 2013. It was released in France in Octo­ber.
On “Roots of the Blues,” Weston teams up with tenor saxo­phonist Billy Harper. Weston and Harper, like Weston and the late trombonist/arranger Melba Lis­ton, go together like two straws in a coke.
The 13 tracks on this album are mostly original compositions by Weston with the exception of Billy Strayhorn’s “Take The A Train,” “Body and Soul” made famous by saxophon­ist Coleman H a w k i n s and “How High the Moon,” a jazz stan­dard by Nancy Ham­ilton. It was first fea­tured in the 1940 Broad­way revue “Two for the Show.”
Wil­lard Jen­kins, who co-authored “African Rhythms: The Autobiography of Randy Weston” points out: “How High the Moon” was grits & gravy for the bebop generation of the 40s and 50s.
“It was the first piece I heard Lucky Thompson play and I loved it,” Randy fondly recalls of the late, under-recognized saxophone master. “I played with Lucky once in Brooklyn. What an honor!”
Lucky Thompson’s son Da­ryl Thompson is currently work­ing with Sly Dunbar and Rob­bie Shakespeare’s Taxi Gang. Thompson also worked with Black Uhuru and Peter Tosh’s Word, Sound and Power.
Weston and Harper first met in 1972 when Randy produced an ambitious festival in Moroc­co’s northernmost city, Tangier. Weston and Harper bonded in­stantly after playing together in Tangier.
“I heard the sound that I like,” recalls Weston. “That Texas sound, and being from Texas, Bil­ly is a great blues player. When Billy plays the tenor it’s like an orches­tra.
“The call and response is always there. I always hear the black church in his playing. He’s constantly singing through his horn. As far as why we work well together, it’s the magic; that big, black sound he gets,” exclaims Randy.
Weston and Harper play to­gether on all tracks with the ex­ception of “The Healers” and “If One Could Only See.”
“Billy’s sound comes straight out of Africa,” continues Weston of the Houston, Texas tenor man who is of Somali ancestral lin­eage, “but it’s a universal sound. That cry he gets in his sound, it reaches your soul.”
“He plays that modern saxo­phone but it’s very poetic. You listen to his solos and it’s a com­plete composition, you hear the whole history of the tenor.”
Weston is currently touring and is coming to Toronto to the Jazz Performance and Education Center on January 11, 2014.
Artists from Mali play Toronto’s Koerner Hall
Koerner Hall is fast becoming the spot for black music in Toron­to. When I use the term black mu­sic, I am speaking of music that Africans make from Cape Town to Nova Scotia.
I recently witnessed a concert by Malian songbird, Rokia Traore at Koerner Hall. The youthful Traore is currently touring in sup­port of her new album, “Beauti­ful Africa.”
Traore who provided vo­cals and played guitar was supported by bassist Ruth Goller, guitarist Giovanni Fer­rario, drummer Dave de Rose, with ngoni and background vo­cals by Fatima Koutaye and Bintou Soum­bounou.
Traore’s concert is part of a series fea­turing artists from Mali.
On February 1, 2014 the Con­cert for Mali will feature Fatouma­ta Diawara with Bassekou Kouy­ate. Diawara is singer currently living in France.
Born in Côte d’Ivoire to par­ents from Mali, Diawara moved to France to pursue acting, appear­ing in several international films. Diawara was named by Time magazine in late 2012 as one of the next 10 artists poised for star­dom.
Kouyaté is a musician from Mali. His band is known as Ngoni ba.
At the age of 12, he started playing the ngoni, a string instru­ment that originated in West Af­rica. In the late ‘80s he moved to the capital Bamako.
Kouyaté’s debut album “Segu Blue” was released internation­ally in 2007. Kouyaté’s wife, Amy Sacko, is also a successful solo artist and sings lead in his band.
His wife will be performing at Koerner Hall. His father Mustapha Kouyate was a ngoni player and his mother Yagaré Damba was a praise singer.
Jimmy Reid releases new CD
I ran into my dear friend Jim­my Reid at the Black Action De­fense Committee 25th anniversa­ry celebration. Reid is a veteran Toronto-based reggae artist.
He handed me a copy of his new album, “Jimmy Reid,” which features 10 tracks.
The songs include “Memo­ries,” “Behind Closed Doors,” “Julie,” “Birthday Song,” “Gifted & Beautiful,” “Are You Ready,” “Af­rican Beauty,” “Open the Door,” “Nah Give Up” and “Children in the Ghetto.”
The Jamaican-born Ried won the award of merit at the Canadian Reggae Music Award in 1995. He was the winner of the Canadian Reggae Music Award for album of the year for his 2000 release “Se­cret Emotions.” For more informa­tion check: http://www.reverbna­tion.com/jimmyreidmusic


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