Monty Alexander, Min Xiao-Fen Remember Randy Weston

Two share memories of the African-influenced pianist (4/6/26 - 9/1/18)

Randy Weston seen here at Half Moon Bay, Calif. in 1984. (photo by: Brian McMillen). www.brianmcmillenphotography.com

Monty Alexander, pianist: Randy Weston was one of the most loving human beings I knew. I had the pleasure and honor of touring with him in Europe in the mid-’80s—two pianos and two hand drummers. He sat at his instrument like a great eagle, presiding over those keys with strength and power. His passion for his music was evident, with his love of Africa and the legacy of Duke Ellington combined. From the first note he played to the last, he took you on a journey to the great continent, which is the true locus of the best of American music. And here I am with my love of my Jamaican roots; it was a good combination. A gentle giant with a welcoming smile, he was a wonderful messenger of love.

Min Xiao-Fen, pipa player and vocalist: Randy Weston was much more than a mentor to me—he was a hero. I feel honored to have known him and performed as his guest for over two decades. He was not only a musical giant, he was an African cultural ambassador and a wonderful human being. I first met Randy in 1998, when we were sharing the same bill at a concert in Atlanta. I remember watching in amazement as he performed solo. Afterwards I was introduced to him and discovered we were both living in Brooklyn. He was curious about my instrument, the pipa (four-string Chinese lute), and quite interested in Chinese culture—as well as Chinese food. A few days later he invited me to his home. I brought a large book about the history of Chinese music and performed for him, his daughter, and his grandson Niles. He gave me several books to study, and I soon began learning more and more about African culture. Later that year I had the pleasure of recording the album Khepera with him. For me, one special highlight was a duet that we composed together titled “The Shang,” which refers to the ancient Chinese Shang Dynasty (1600-1050 B.C). The main premise behind the composition was the influence that Africa had on early Chinese civilization. He was such an inspiration.

I will always remember Randy Weston. May his generous spirit and noble legacy live on!