R.I.P.: Randy Weston

The last time we saw him perform was at the New England Conservatory, the same week as the Marathon Bombings. He stopped in the middle of the show to announce that one of the supreme powers of music was its ability to heal and that he was consciously setting out to do that this night.

He worked magic. We came out of the hall with soaring spirits, an enormous dark weight lifted from us. Randy Weston healed us like no other performer at an essential moment of anguish. Eternal thanks and peace.

Three picks:

This is your prime starting spot. Little Niles, Live at the Five Spot and (esp.) Uhuru Afrika are masterpieces. Uhuru changed my head forever in that I heard jazz as African music like never before.

Maybe no surprise, this is the second stop — which shows you how he got to my first pick. Jazz a La Bohemia and Solo, Duo & Trio feature tremendous lineups and not a weak moment of playing.

This is the less-well-known recommendation that keeps exploding and expanding with that collective soul strength. Will make you spin around the room. Play loud.

I think Tanjah was the album that introduced me to Weston, maybe from a review by Robert Palmer. I don’t know how many of his records I own — many, many, many.

 

 

Ry Cooder Preview That Got Lost in the Storm

This was such an insanely busy week that I managed not to link to this preview.

June 7 at 8 p.m.
The Wilbur Theatre, Boston, MA

Ry Cooder’s new album, The Prodigal Son (Fantasy) is one of those works that tempt you to say it was inevitable because it’s so apt and timely. This is always an illusion – concept and execution have to fuse into a set that’s perfect for the moment and the future. Cooder’s basic insight was that traditional gospel songs often have potent morality, righteousness and even anger. They do mean to lift you higher. The Prodigal Son combines fairly well-remembered numbers like Blind Willie Johnson’s “Nobody’s Fault But Mine” with more-faded tunes like Blind Roosevelt Graves’s “I’ll Be Rested When the Roll Is Called.” Best of all, Cooder modifies Alfred Reed’s “You Must Unload” so it chastises the faux-pious wealthy of our time and he enriches the program with acid observations on “Gentrification” (written with his son and the album’s drummer, Joachim). “Jesus and Woody” is even narrated by Christ himself. Can’t deny it – seeing this show will earn you a blessing.

My Altamount Snippet

I see there’s a new book about classic rock’s darkest day, Just a Shot Away. With what seems like a much-needed remedial main thread. (And I must say that the event is the one thing I utterly hate about the Grateful Dead.)

My most vivid encounter with Altamount horrors came when I mentioned the Gimme Shelter documentary to a music photographer (forgive me for not remembering his name) and he said he was at the show, taking photos. But it was such a drug-soaked and violently deranged scene — more like a riot than a concert — that after half an hour he put away the camera and volunteered to work in a First Aid tent.

It was the look on his face as he recounted this that froze me. This was someone who had witnessed an atrocity.