TRANSART attracted a standing room only event at Brooklyn's Borough Hall on October 17, 2011, to celebrate the genius of octogenarian and greatly acknowledged pianist, composer Randy Weston, Dr. Robert O'Meally, the Zora Neale Hurston Professor of English and former founding Director of the Center for Jazz Studies at Columbia University, and song stylist, Brooklyn native Charenee Wade , who placed First Runner-Up in the 2010 Thelonious Monk Competition at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC and who was also accepted into Betty Carter's Jazz Ahead Program. Her debut CD, "Love Walked In" was released in July 2010.
TRANSART is a non-profit multi-disciplined cultural arts organization founded by Greer Smith and produces the annual "Jazz In The Valley" concerts ( www.transartinc.org).
Sage and visionary Randy Weston reigns as America's living music legend who represents our African heritage and calls his music, "African Rhythms". Although his parents were from Jamaica, Panama and the American South, he grew up in the African Village of Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn . He literally learned his skills through physically and emotionally observing and absorbing the music, as he sat at the feet of such giants as Duke Ellington, Nat King Cole, Max Roach and John Lewis, but it was Thelonious Monk who had the greatest impact on young Weston. He spent many hours sitting, watching in silence and listening to Monk before they actually made conversation. In the 60s he lived in North Africa and owned a popular club in Tangier, Morocco, hosting a festival which included musicians from America as well as the African Continent. It was in Morocco where he met and fell in love with the Gnawa music, people, and tradition. The ancestors of the Gnawa who currently live in North Africa were brought to Morocco 500 years ago from Timbuktu, Mali. In 2010 Mr. Weston's autobiography AFRICA RHYTHMS was published by Duke University Press. In 2011 he was honored for his life work by His Majesty King Mohammed VI, the King of Morocco, for his commitment to Morocco's Gnawa tradition. In the same 2011 year he received the Guggenheim for the Creative Arts. His latest CD is "The Storyteller".
In the Borough Hall Court Room, the festive evening began with the ceremonial libation performed by Baba Neil Clarke who is also the percussionist in the African Rhythms band. Greer Smith, the CEO of TRANSART, gave opening remarks followed by those of renowned visual artist Danny Simmons, Co-Chairman of the event. Sharif Abdus-Salaam, host of "Jazz Alternatives" on WKCR ( Thursdays 6-9 PM @ 89.9 FM), served as Master of Ceremonies. Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz presented Randy with a replica of the Brooklyn Bridge. Others honored Randy with Proclamations from : The Borough of Brooklyn- Marty Markowitz, Congressional- US Representative Yvette Clark, New York City Council- Letitia James, and the New York State Assembly and Senate. City Councilman, Charles Baron offered remarks.
NEA Jazz Master Candido Camera sat on the front row. Some of the Host Committee who made it all happen smoothly include: Khephra Burns, Jo Ann Cheatham, Laurie Cumbo, Nana Camille Yarbrough, K. Mensah Wali, Don Quinn Kelley, April R. Sliver, James Mtume, Sam Penn, Sonia Sanchez, Sharif Abdus-Salaam, Amiri Baraka, Yvette Clarke, Candido Camera, Olu Dara, Richard Green, Carolyn McClair, and Quincy Troupe, among others.
Mr. Weston's African Rhythms trio, made the night special as Randy at the piano, explained each song before it was played. The tunes showcased Alex Blake's bombastic bass interpretations and Neil Clarke's innovative percussion. Together, they brought the roots of Africa to the Court Room in Brooklyn's Borough Hall.
After wine and sumptuous food prepared by Chef JJ (Joseph Johnson--who can be seen on Rocco's Dinner Party on the Bravo Network), the second part of the evening commenced in the Rotunda with remarks by Danny Simmons, and Sharif Abdus-Salaam.
It was a great night and a new day to acknowledge our appreciation of these current and future giants of music. Deep kudos to TRANSART.
* See the photo album of this event to be posted shortly on my Facebook page.
Brooklyn Borough President, Marty Markowitz presented Randy Weston with a replica of the Brooklyn Bridge. Left to right: NYC Councilman, Charles Barron, visual artist, Danny Simmons, Randy Weston, Marty Markowitz, CEO of Transarts Greer Smith and NYC Council woman, Letitia James L
Alex Blake, Bassist with Randy Weston's Africa Rhythms