We were sad to learn of the passing of pianist, composer, and Duke University Press author Randy Weston, who died in his Brooklyn home on Saturday, September 1, at the age of 92.
The author of African Rhythms: The Autobiography of Randy Weston, Weston was born in Brooklyn on April 6, 1926, and became one of the most innovative and unique musicians of his generation. He studied, befriended, and performed with many of jazz’s luminaries including Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk, Max Roach, and Melba Liston.
Weston’s illustrious career spanned seven decades and is documented on fifty albums, the first of which came out in 1952. His final album, The African Nubian Suite, was released in 2016. An indefatigable performer, Weston was always performing and touring. He played his final live show in July.
Throughout his career Weston emphasized jazz’s African roots and drew on a variety of musical traditions of the African diaspora, from Moroccan and Ghanaian to those of the Caribbean. Willard Jenkins, who coauthored African Rhythms, told NPR that “while a lot of musicians are constantly seeking something new, Randy found sustenance in ancient tradition.”
“Randy Weston was a warm and brilliant spirit,” said Weston’s editor at Duke University Press, Ken Wissoker. “His commitments to the music and to Africa and the diaspora never wavered. His story was unique, as was he, and it was a real honor to work with him and Willard Jenkins on his memoir.”
Weston was a two-time Grammy nominee, a Guggenheim fellow, National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Master, and a member of Downbeat magazine’s Hall of Fame. He is survived by his wife Fatoumata Mbengue, his three daughters, and many grandchildren. All of us who worked with Weston here at Duke University Press are proud to have a played a small part in cementing his legacy.