Mon May 21, 2018
The Art of Jazz Piano

Randy Weston & Billy Harper (USA) / Giovanni Guidi 'Salida' (I/CU/USA)

Randy Weston & Billy Harper Duo
Randy Weston: piano
Billy Harper: tenor, soprano saxophone

Giovanni Guidi Quartet
Giovanni Guidi: piano, fender rhodes
David Virelles: keyboards, electronics
Dezron Douglas: bass
Gerald Cleaver: drums

Randy Weston & Billy Harper Duo
Randy Weston and Billy Harper‘s long partnership has culminated in their first duo recording, The Roots of the Blues, recorded by French producer Jean-Phillippe Allard for Universal and recently released stateside by the Sunnyside label. Ace producer Allard has been at the console for such Weston record dates as Spirit! The Power of Music Verve/Gitanes 1999), Earth Birth (Verve/Gitanes 1995), Khepera (Verve/Gitanes 1998), Saga (Verve/Gitanes 1995), Volcano Blues (Verve/Gitanes 1993), Marrakech in the Cool of the Evening (Verve/Gitanes 1992), The Splendid Master Gnawa Musicians (Verve 1992), and the classic The Spirits of Our Ancestors (Verve 1991). The latter featured three distinctive, spiritually adept tenor men – Pharoah Sanders, Dewey Redman (the tenor exchange between those two on an extended version of “African Cookbook” is worth the price of the CD alone), and Harper. But the Weston/Harper hook-up goes back further than that auspicious record date.

In 1971, as part of his overall plan to develop an African cultural beachhead in Tangier, Morocco that would serve as a hub for African and African Diaspora culture, while continuing to operate his African Rhythms Club in the northernmost African city, Weston began planning a grand festival – which would eventually become the first primarily jazz festival in Africa. As part of his planning he recruited his boyhood friend Max Roach and arts activist Mary Jo Johnson as his US-based liaisons to secure and arrange travel for the US artists Randy planned to bring to the festival. The idea was to produce a festival that would find US and African artists collaborating creatively. The US artists who committed to playing the festival, which commenced September 1-3, 1972, included Mandrill, Pucho & the Latin Soul Brothers, Odetta, Hubert Laws, Ahmed Abdul-Malik, and Max Roach’s Quartet, with Cecil Bridgewater on trumpet, Juney Booth on bass, and Billy Harper. However for some then-unexplained reason Max was not on the flight! Additionally, Dexter Gordon and trumpeter Richard “Notes” Williams joined the lineup from Europe.

Randy puzzled over Max’s absence for years, not learning until after Roach’s passing that the reason he didn’t make the flight was to maintain marital bliss, Max’s wife being very much pregnant at the time. Come festival time – at a grand outdoor venue that was actually a converted bull ring stadium, a setting Weston described as fraught with the usual logistical nightmares of a short-funded start-up (the Moroccan government fell short of its promised financial support), Max’s band soldiered on without him, Harper even taking to the traps for part of the performance, which he also did handily for Hubert Laws set. Though clearly an artistic success, the festival dug such a deep hole for Weston that he was forced to padlock his African Rhythms Club and return home to Brooklyn to recoup. Obviously Billy Harper left a major impression on Weston, such that in recent years whenever a performance calls for or affords him the option of having a tenor player in his band, Weston calls on Harper. (Pressetext)

Giovanni Guidi Quartet
Last summer, during a conversation in the backstage of some jazz festivals, pianist Giovanni Guidi had the idea of setting up a new band. David Virelles quickly agreed, accepting the new challenge of a very unique and unusual instrumentation for a jazz quartet: piano and keyboards, played by Guidi and Virelles who switch instruments randomly. Two musicians united by a remarkably original vision of music with different results but a very similar evolution through time.

Guidi, 32 years old, has been pianist of European jazz icon Enrico Rava, since he was 19 years old. In the past years he has recorded three albums as leader for ECM with musicians as Louis Sclavis, Gianluca Petrella, Thomas Morgan, Gerald Cleaver and Joao Lobo.

Virelles is one of the most outstanding musicians from the international scene. He has recorded several albums as a leader signed by ECM. He also makes sideman appearances with Ravi Coltrane, Chris Potter, Tomasz Stanko ed Henry Threadgill.

Dezron Douglas and Gerald Cleaver make up a dynamic and forceful rythm section, as recently seen in the Rava-Stanko quintet.

The focus of the group is an original music that uses influences from their back-ground to synthesize a contemporary language that crosses the musical boundaries. (Pressetext)