When I interviewed Randy Weston for this recent Wall Street Journal profile, the 87-year-old pianist reflected on his youth in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn, New York.
“Back then, Brooklyn was a jazz city,” he said. “Musicians were local heroes. Once bebop hit, you could hear shoeshine guys whistling Charlie Parker melodies while they worked.”
Weston talked to me about spending time at the home of Max Roach, who was one year his senior, and whose family moved to Bedford-Stuyvesant when Roach was four years old. Any conversation with Weston involves digging deeply into the primacy of rhythm and the social and political context for African American music without ever landing on the word “jazz.”
It’s hard to overstate Roach’s importance to our understanding of rhythmic orientation and possibility in modern music, to African American identity in general, and concerning the pejorative connotations and linguistic failures of the word “jazz.”
I can’t wait to get a chance to dig into the collection of Roach’s personal archives, acquired by the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. and announced on Monday.
According to the Library of Congress website: Continue reading “A Window into Max Roach's World, at the Library of Congress”