Top 10 Favorite Randy Weston Tracks

It’s hard to frame the loss of a 92 year old man who was productive and healthy virtually to the end as tragic, but we will greatly miss the great pianist, composer, and visionary Randy Weston all the same. He was a major figure in jazz and a huge influence on my own conception both sonically and conceptually. His powerful and ruggedly individualistic piano style was an underpinning force throughout his music, his partnerships with distinctive arrangers modeled effective collaboration, and his exploration of the cultural and musical roots of Africa were ahead of their time and unprecedentedly deep for someone whose jazz bona fides were also so unimpeachable. And if you ask me, he never lost any speed off his fastball, as his output in his 80s was as potent as that of his 20s. Safe passage Maestro Weston, and for everyone else, here are 10 of my favorites tracks of his, listed chronologically.

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Top 10 Favorite Aretha Franklin Tracks

Aretha Franklin, the appropriately named Queen of Soul, has battled health problems for years, but it is still jarring to hear that she is gravely ill at this point. While she is still with us, let’s all “Say a Little Prayer” for this regal and exceptionally potent artist, whose singing, piano playing, and overall conception have inspired and taught me like few others have. Here are some of my favorite tracks.

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EDS Awareness 2018: I QUIT

If I had a dollar for every time I dragged my aching carcass out of bed the morning after a gig and declared “I quit,” then I’d be buying dinner for everyone reading this. A couple weeks ago I had a gig in NYC with my old friend and colleague Amanda Monaco’s band, also featuring one of my longtime musical heroes. And I finally put my money where my mouth was and I DID QUIT, though not in the way I have historically intended with the statement.

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MLK, ‘Trane, and 3 Steps to an Aspirational Life

This month I am choosing to focus on how the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. modeled the aspirational life, an existence governed by what could and should be. The older I get (and the scarier the threats become to my country’s moral fabric) the more essential this view of life becomes to me. It also becomes more difficult for me to separate it from the cosmic possibilities that exist in music, something for which John Coltrane is Exhibit A (and quite possibly Exhibits Bb-G# as well). I have long viewed these two figures as aligned, but what is most significant is how these lessons can be applied by any person who chooses to, regardless of career path. Few of us would herald Dr. King today if not for the balance he struck between the moral and spiritual profundity of his “dream” and the corresponding day-in and day-out work.

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Top 10 Favorite Tracks Featuring Mickey Roker

About 6 months after saying goodbye to Bob Cranshaw, we do the same with his batterymate in Milt Jackson’s group and on literally dozens of other records, the fabulous drummer Granville “Mickey” Roker. Few have swung as hard, and while he was not the most famous of drummers, the feeling in his beat speaks to me in a unique way. Here are some of my personal favorites from his discography.

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