Randy Weston

After contributing six decades of musical direction and genius, National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Master Randy Weston remains one of the world's foremost pianists and composers today, a true innovator and visionary. Encompassing the vast rhythmic heritage of Africa, his global creations musically continue to inform and inspire. “Weston has the biggest sound of any jazz pianist since Ellington and Monk, as well as the richest most inventive beat,” states jazz critic Stanley Crouch, “but his art is more than projection and time; it’s the result of a studious and inspired intelligence...an intelligence that is creating a fresh synthesis of African elements with jazz technique”.

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Randy Weston, born in Brooklyn, New York in 1926, didn’t have to travel far to hear the early jazz giants that were to influence him. Though Weston cites Count Basie, Nat King Cole, Art Tatum, and of course, Duke Ellington as his other piano heroes, it was Monk who had the greatest impact. “He was the most original I ever heard,” Weston remembers. “He played like they must have played in Egypt 5000 years ago.”

Randy Weston’s first recording as a leader came in 1954 on Riverside Records Randy Weston plays Cole Porter – Cole Porter in a modern mood It was in the 50’s when Randy Weston played around New York with Cecil Payne and Kenny Dorham that he wrote many of his best loved tunes, “Saucer Eyes,” “Pam’s Waltz,” “Little Niles,” and, “Hi-Fly.” His greatest hit, “Hi-Fly,” Weston (who is 6’ 8“) says, is a “tale of being my height and looking down at the ground.”

Randy Weston has never failed to make the connections between African and American music. His dedication is due in large part to his father, Frank Edward Weston, who told his son that he was, “an African born in America.” “He told me I had to learn about myself and about him and about my grandparents,” Weston said in an interview, “and the only way to do it was I’d have to go back to the motherland one day.”

In the late 60’s, Weston left the country. But instead of moving to Europe like so many of his contemporaries, Weston went to Africa. Though he settled in Morocco, he traveled throughout the continent tasting the musical fruits of other nations. One of his most memorable experiences was the 1977 Nigerian festival, which drew artists from 60 cultures. “At the end,” Weston says, “we all realized that our music was different but the same, because if you take out the African elements of bossa nova, samba, jazz, blues, you have nothing..........To me, it’s Mother Africa’s way of surviving in the new world.”

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Bob Cunningham

A native of Cleveland, Ohio, Bob Cunningham has tasted the fruit from many different trees of the music world from classical to contemporary. He studied the Bass privately with such accomplished master instructors as Jacques Possell and June Cobb of Ohio, as well as the illustrious Art Davis and Homer Mench of New York. The Cleveland Music Institute and the prestigious Julliard School of Music further contributed to the rounding out of his musical growth.

The contemporary greats with whom Cunningham has performed read like a brilliant “Who’s Who” of the music world. Having moved to New York in 1960, he has jammed and gigged with such notables as Dizzy Gillespie, Max Roach, Betty Carter, Aminata Moseka “Abbey Lincoln”, Sun Ra, Art Blakely, Freddie Hubbard, Pharoah Saunders, and Yusef Lateef, for whom he composed and arranged a number of pieces. Cunningham has gone to work with not only accomplished musicians, but also noted choreographers such as Eleo Pomare, Rod Rodgers, Raymond Sawyer, and luminous poets like Sonia Sanchez, Sandra Sharp, Camille Yarbrough, and Gylan Kain.

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Kiane Zawadi

Kiane Zawadi is a New Yorker originally from Detroit and comes from a family whose tradition is rooted in music. Mr. Zawadi has performed and recorded with many legendary musicians, including his mentor, Barry Harris, Dizzy Gillespie, Joe Henderson, Roland Alexander, Freddie Hubbard, Art Farmer/Benny Golson Jazztet, James Moody, Lionel Hampton, Frank Foster, Aretha Franklin, Clifford Jordan, Wynton Marsalis Live at Lincoln Center, Rodney Kendrick, Archie Shepp, Randy Weston, McCoy Tyner, Larry Ridley, Yusuf Lateef, Sun Ra and Dexter Gordon.

Kiane was voted Downbeat Magazine’s “Artist Deserving Wider Recognition” and received a National Endowment for the Arts Performance grant. His teaching experience includes Jazzmobile, NYC Housing Authority After–School program; Washington Irving HS Music in the Schools program, The New School Jazz Studies program, The Crown Heights Youth Collective, and Duke University’s Master Music Performance Program.

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Leopoldo Fleming

(Leopoldo Fleming Afro–Caribbean Jazz Ensemble)

As a musician, composer, lyricist, and arranger Leopoldo is a great personality with a rich and multicolored palette. His inspiration stems from his Latin–Afro–Indian roots, his childhood in Puerto Rico and St. Thomas, his many years as highly active on the jazz and beyond music scene of New York, and his international experience from since his youth collaborating and touring with US, Caribbean, and African stars all over Europe, Africa, South America, the Caribbean, the Orient and Australia. Since 1951 Leopoldo’s home is New York, however, from 1987 to 98 he had residence in Vienna, Austria, and since 2006 he has a base in Copenhagen, Denmark, too.

Though mainly a jazz musician, Leopoldo goes about well versed in several musical genres – jazz, funk, R&B, Caribbean, Cuban, Brazilian, African, gospel and spirituals. He is a brilliant accompanist, a fascinating soloist, has a special melodic gift in his playing, and his performances sparkle with surprises, sophistication, grace, and exquisite timing.

Besides his own music and theater projects, Leopoldo has played, recorded, toured with a cornucopia of other great artists such as Nina Simone (for 31 years off and on), Miriam Makeba, in recent years “Sing The Truth” (w. Dianne Reeves, Lizz Wright, Angélique Kidjo, Simone Kelly, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Stacey Kent and more), The Symphony of the New World, Harry Belafonte, Monica Zetterlund, The String Reunion, Eartha Kitt, The World Bass Violin Ensemble, Beaver Harris, Novella Nelson, Lonnie Liston Smith, Dr. Lonnie Smith, Sonny Stitt, Richard Grove Holmes, Queen Esther Marrow, Leon Thomas, Randy Weston (in big band format and in a trio including Ron Carter), Archie Shepp, Bob Cunningham, Kenny Barron, Horace Parlan, David Murray, The Boys’ Choir of Harlem, a number of local world class musicians in Vienna and Copenhagen respectively, the all–stars Lou Caputo Not So Big Band, and once a year he tours the Far East with the New York Harlem Singers.

Learn more about Leopoldo F. Fleming at http://allaboutjazz.com/leopoldofleming

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Vishnu Wood

Vishnu Wood combines his work as a performing musician with multicultural education programs in an effort to help adults and children understand the roots of America’s classical music JAZZ. His career includes national and international concerts and performances as a jazz bassist and national and international educational programs through Safari East Cultural Programs, the organization he founded in l973.

Mr. Wood is a native of Detroit who came up in the bebop era at the feet of jazz greats such as Barry Harris, Elvin Jones, Clifford Jordan, Randy Weston, Yusef Lateef. After a long New York – based career, Mr. Wood has added a second residence in Amherst, Massachusetts where he combines country life with an active musical career.

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