The Rhythms Continue
Street Date: November 1, 2019
The Rhythms Continue, T.K. Blue's new suite, is dedicated to the memory of T.K’s long-time band-leader and mentor NEA Jazz Master Dr. Randy Weston who passed away in September of 2018. Made up of compositions by T.K. Blue, Melba Liston and Randy Weston, The Rhythms Continue features an ensemble of ten musicians who are well-versed in the African Rhythms, jazz sensibility and passionate intensity that is hallmark to the compositions of master Randy Weston. Aside from arranging each of these compositions, band leader T.K Blue performs alto and soprano saxophone, flute, kalimba, sanza, lukembi and mbira on these recordings. The rhythm section is made up of the exceptional Alex Blake on bass and master percussionist Neil Clarke (together with Weston, these two made up Randy Weston’s Trio) with in-demand recording artist Vince Ector on drums. Billy Harper appears on tenor saxophone and Min Xiao Fen performs the chinese pipa, a traditional lute-like instrument. Weston’s vacant piano bench was filled, on this recording, by four young pianists who each bring a uniquely original feel to this dedication to the great piano legend: Sharp Radway, Mike King, Keith Brown and Kelly Green.
Dr. Randy Weston was an artist that can be described by several names: NEA jazz master, America’s African Music Ambassador, and Baba. Baba, an African honorific meaning “father” seems the most appropriate title for Mr. Weston to have, as Randy Weston’s music certainly fathered a spiritual awakening within the jazz idiom that traced the art-form back to its African roots, inspiring many African-Americans to assert their heritage amidst a climate of racial and social unrest. T.K. Blue, performed in Weston’s African Rhythms band for thirty-eight years, for most of which he was musical director. T.K. says “Words cannot adequately express my admiration, love, and respect for such an incredible human being, who exuded generosity and altruism beyond measure. He enriched my life and enhanced my awareness of the magnificent legacy of the African aesthetic via its music and culture. The Rhythms Continue is my humble offering to say thank you for being a mentor, elder, and teacher by sharing your infinite wisdom, and giving all of us pride in knowing who we are and valuing the brilliant cultural legacy of Africa that sustains and nourishes our existence.”
The first track on the album, “Kasbah 330A”, starts the album off at a bright-tempoed swing. This blues was dedicated to Randy’s home on Lafayette Ave in Fort Greene, Brooklyn. To the artist, this apartment was like a shrine “complete with a vast library of books on Africa, the African diaspora, and African-American history, culture, and music.” Track three on the album entitled “Going to the East” is dedicated to the very first time that the composer heard Randy perform, T.K. recalls being “overwhelmed by his musicianship, his mastery of pianistic improvisational forays, his compositions, and most of all his intense musical symmetry with his son. They both knew exactly where the other was heading musically, and they complimented each other in such a profound and spiritual way.” This piece seems to embody some of that musical symmetry with the intensely rhythmic and yet synchronized comping of the stunning rhythm section creating the perfect underlying structure for the soloists to improvise over.
Track six, “Insomnia”, was penned by Melba Liston, Weston’s long-time arranger. According to T.K. “It’s difficult to speak about Dr. Weston without acknowledging the trailblazing Melba Liston, his chief arranger. They shared a profound relationship similar to that of Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn.” Liston, who passed away in 1999 was the first woman trombonist to play in jazz big bands from the 1940’s to the 1960’s. The final piece to the suite is titled “World 3: The Last Goodbye.” The delicate melody and instrumentation of this composition reflect the tender last moments that composer T.K Blue spent with his dear friend and mentor Randy Weston. Regarding Weston’s life, T.K said “I will always cherish the love, warmth, generosity, and musical experiences we shared. The dignity and pride he exhibited will be my guiding light. Baba Randy lives on in myself, and many others. The world is a better place because of his life and legacy.