Wednesday night’s Randy Weston concert at the Walters was one of the most life-affirming, musically dazzling shows I’ve ever seen. The legendary pianist—who turned 85 on Wednesday—and his African Rhythms band played with a power and sensitivity that was both physically and emotionally moving.
Poet Langston Hughes nailed it when he wrote that, when Weston performs, “a combination of strength and gentleness, virility and velvet emerges from the keys.” Amazingly, the same can be said of Weston’s bandmates—bassist Alex Blake, saxophonist/flutist T.K. Blue, and percussionist Neil Clarke—who exude those same qualities when they play. As soloists and as an ensemble, they put on a jaw-dropping display of heady musicality fused with a foot stomping and earthy, rhythmic pulse.
With Weston’s wife and children in the audience, the band sang happy birthday to him and led the crowd in a sing-a-long as the jazz icon beamed from his piano bench. At the end of the show, each band member took turns telling Weston how much he meant to them, both musically and personally, and a few eyes moistened in the process. Then, they thanked An die Musik’s Henry Wong, who made the show happen, and adjourned to the lobby to mingle with folks like WEAA’s Doc Manning and saxophonist Carl Grubbs, toast the guest of honor, and have a slice of birthday cake.
It was a truly magical night.
If you missed it, you can catch Weston at the Kennedy Center tomorrow night.