Q&A: Randy Weston

As part of York University's Performing Diaspora series,.


As part of York University’s Performing Diaspora series, legendary jazz pianist Randy Weston will retrace the flow of African rhythms from their ancestral sources in a solo performance in the Tribute Communities Recital Hall (Accolade East Building, 4700 Keele), Friday (February 13) at 8 pm. $40, stu/srs $25. Beforehand, Weston speaks at a free public Q&A at 1:30 pm. 416-736-5888.

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What record changed your life?

Body And Soul, by Coleman Hawkins. It was the greatest work of any kind of music I’d ever heard. When it came out, I was getting 75 cents a week as an allowance. I asked my father for an advance so I could buy three copies of the record. I wrapped up two of them and hid them in my room, put the other one on the turntable and turned it up so loud people walking by on the street could hear it. I wore it out.

What was it like to meet Thelonious Monk?

I went to see him play on 52nd Street and followed him back to his dressing room. I started asking Monk every question I could dream up, and he just sat there saying nothing. After a while I got up to leave, and he said, “Come back any time.” So about a month later I returned out of curiosity and he played the piano for me. We hung out regularly for the next three years.

You’ve been working on an autobiography for a few years now. Anywhere near finished?

I’m happy to tell you that my book, African Rhythms, will be published by Duke University Press before the end of this year. People kept asking me to write about what I did and with whom, but I wanted to use the opportunity to show that the music is the real power and we musicians are just the messengers. Once people know that, they’ll have a better understanding of why I play piano like I do.

You’re going to be 83 in April, and you seem to be doing more shows than ever. How will you know when it’s time to wind things down?

The word “retirement” doesn’t exist in a musician’s vocabulary. Music is a way of life for me. I’ll quit when I’m dead.

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