Gwen Black on Microphone, artists, musicians and photographers
The late, Great Randy Weston (4/6/26 – 9/1/18), was remembered in a photo and art exhibition at the stately Stuyvesant Mansion in Brooklyn on December 12. Performing at the opening reception were Grammy-nominated musicians Hassan Benjaafar and Amino Belyamani. Benjaafar plays Sintir, a 3-string bass guitar/lute. Belyamani plays percussion.
Among the many guests was acclaimed sculptor, painter, printmaker Otto Neal. A few years younger than Weston, the two budding artists grew up on the same Bedford-Stuyvesant block. Neal said, “I knew Randy for more than 70 years. He was always the genuine, kind, upbeat person you were glad to be able to call a friend. There aren’t a lot of people with these traits. “
Michael Howard of Central Brooklyn Jazz Consortium was in Weston’s company on numerous occasions, and was responsible for rounding up a group of jazz aficionados for this exhibit by simply mentioning Randy Weston’s name.
Even guests who did not know Weston personally liked his music. One such guest and artist was Michael Chamblee, who drew three mixed medium paintings for showing at exhibits honoring Weston and his African infused music style.
Larry Weekes of the Fulton Street Art Festival favored a tune Weston wrote “Blue Moses” and interpreted the music in a striking painting by the same name.
The opening reception featured numerous paintings, photographs, entertainment, and light refreshments. Kim Weston-Moran, Randy’s daughter, hosted the event and was able to meet and greet the many admirers. Weston’s trademark piece, African Village Bedford-Stuyvesant was the recorded music prelude to the entertainment portion of the evening. The art pieces are for sale. Some have already been sold.
Weston’s music dates to the late 1940’s. While on a U.S. State Department organized tour in Morocco, Weston decided to settle there, and from 1967 to 1972 ran his African Rhythms club in Tangier. “African Rhythms” was what he did – and the name of his working band, that for many years featured Benny Powell, musical director Talib Kibwe, Alex Blake, and Baba Neil Clarke.
Weston learned Gnawa music from indigenous Moroccan musicians. Gnawa people were Sub-Saharan Africans enslaved by Arab Muslims. And, in the same way that enslaved Africans created blues, country music, and jazz in the U.S., our Gnawa cousins developed this spirited music and culture. It is now a popular music form in this area and internationally.
Weston has received numerous awards such as the Society for American Music’s Lifetime Achievement Award 2017; Legends of Jazz award from the National Jazz Museum in Harlem on June 14, 2017; added to the Downbeat Hall of Fame in 2016; recipient of the Arts Critics and Reviewers Association of Ghana, the Black Music Star Award, and numerous other awards, just to name a few. He received an Honorary Doctor of Music degree from Brooklyn College in 2006.
Weston was named National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) Jazz Master in 2001. This is the highest honor given by America to jazz artists. He received the 1998 French Order of Arts and Letters, created to recognize outstanding artistic work and the cultural influence of great artists and writers in France and throughout the world.
And, in 2011 he received a commendation from Morocco’s King Hassan VI, recognizing his contributions to internationalizing Gnawa music.
Curated and produced by Gwen Black of Gwen Black Arts/Arts and Jazzfest NYC and Friends of Randy Weston in Association with the Fulton Art Fair, Inc. the exhibition and sale is at Stuyvesant Mansion, 375 Stuyvesant Avenue, Brooklyn through January 19th, 2020. Please visit www.artsandjazzfestny.com. Call Larry Weekes/Fulton Art Fair, Inc. at 347-526-6073 for viewing and gallery schedule.
Come on over – you won’t be disappointed.