Randy Weston

Doris Duke Artist Award, 2014

New York, NY

Randy Weston has contributed six decades of musical direction and genius, and continues to be a true jazz innovator. His breadth of work begins with the enormous impact of Thelonious Monk and encompasses the vast rhythmic and spiritual heritage of the Caribbean and Africa. He has added jazz standard staples like "Hi-Fly" and "Little Niles" to the canon, and is singular for his collaboration with trombonist and arranger Melba Liston (particularly their 1960 album Uhuru Afrika featuring lyrics by poet Langston Hughes), it is his connection to Morocco’s Gnawan music and culture that has fueled his later work. He has recorded Zep Tepi, The Randy Weston African Rhythm Trio (Random Chance, 2005) and The Spirits of Our Ancestors (Verve, 1992), and in 2010, he released the live concert album The Storyteller (Motema). A recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship (2011) and the NEA Jazz Masters Award (2001), he recently recorded The Roots of the Blues (Sunnyside, 2013) with saxophonist Billy Harper.

  • Photo Credit: Carol Friedman
  • Randy Weston African Rhythms Trio and Candido (2013)
  • Photo Credit: J.Harlaar
    Randy Weston African Rhythms & the Master Gnawa Musicians (2001)
  • Photo Credit: J. Harlaar
    Randy Weston African Rhythms Quintet (2001)
  • "Well you needn't" performed by Randy Weston and Max Roach (1999)

What are your key goals for the award period? What challenges, desires, drives or needs are inspiring these goals?

My key goals for this award period are:

To start and compose a new suite called Seven Ancient African Queens. This will tell the story of these “African Queens” through music and words.

Digitize my reel-to-reel tapes of my concerts during my State Department tour with my band in fourteen African countries in 1967.

Make documentaries through film and interviews of the Traditional Master Musicians of Morocco and Senegal with whom I have spent years with, learning about the foundation of our music in the Western Hemisphere. These documentaries will provide a way to educate our communities and schools on the origin of African music and culture.

To produce and distribute to schools and cultural centers some of my previous concerts through books, CDs, DVDs, songbooks, and other forms of work.

The ultimate mission of my music is to reach the people who are in tune with Mother Nature be they black, yellow, white, green, red, blue, or brown. I hope to reach the teacher, who will carry my message to our kids about the importance of tradition and culture. I believe I am on Earth because God has given me a gift to provide a heavy spiritual message about who we are, what we have done, and where we are going. My message in music is unity for all People.