|After being introduced by Larry Green of Torontos jazz station, JazzFM 91.1, the man we were all gathered to hear took the stage. A handsome man of eighty, Randy Weston smiled, nodding at the audience. He seemed strangely unimposing for a man of six foot eight, elegantly attired in an understated steel-grey suit of lustrous fabric, a grey and white striped turban and black shoes. Leaning down, he placed his bottle of water and a rectangular, silver-coloured object on the floor beside the piano, carefully and soundlessly. Without a word, he sat his six foot eight frame gracefully at the piano and started to play.
He started communication in the lowest register, which he seems to particularly like. Invoking the ancestors, foot tapping quietly, he started rhythming, leading our caravan through outcroppings of Monk and canyons of ancient mystery guarded by a Sphinx. It was an abstract, impressionistic and kaleidoscopic journey through African rhythms, pretty jazz ballads and heavily ornamented blues, reaching into gospel and striding on. None of these changes were abrupt, they flowed logically into and out of each other, building on bits of rhythm, or fragments of melody. Just as flowers unfolding in time-lapse photography, though not linear, this was a beautiful and completely natural process, concentrated.
An hour later, Randy Weston rose to face us and we clapped hard. He clasped his hands and bowed, turned and returned to the bench. Monk, Strayhorn and Dizzy emanated from the piano as we moved through nights in Tunisia and well, I neednt mention everything. Randy Westons style is unmistakable - containing much history, yet unique, impossible to parse simply into its antecedents. His right hand reached for the top notes and started a rhythmic motif. His left hand started a complementary rhythm underneath it, far away down the keyboard. Big, bold splashes of chords bounced against these rhythms, sometimes obscuring them with colours running and vibrations mingling. Sounds not resident in any of the keys struck, emerged from their merging resonance. Randy Westons hands can build powerful passages, but his playing is never violent or aggressive. His is a gentle power.
When the final note dissipated, Randy Weston approached the microphone. Thank you for spending this spiritual evening with me, he said. Music is the real language, the language of the human spirit, of beauty and peace.
An encore? Oh yes, St.Thomas was there, among others.