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The Nile and the Bile

The Nile

Randy Weston just turned 80. And Africa just turned about 80 billion. Sometimes it seems as if Weston might outlive embattled Africa; then again, as long as his piano remains in our digital/collective memory, Africa will live, too. Many billion years more, let’s hope.

Weston has flowed with the Source since his ’50s days in New York, picking up a knack for spatial-temporal magic from Thelonious Monk, and later expanding his atlas with rhythm investigations on the Mother Continent. He’s not that famous; maybe he lacks the self-hype gene. But mention him around jazz musicians and they do everything but kneel.

Something happens when Weston spreads his condor wings across the keyboard. The heart’s motion meets the stars’ stillness. Wild harmony becomes a loving watchdog. True intelligence — understanding — settles in, deep but unpretentious. The complexity of the universe seems simple enough to touch.

Weston has made several great albums, some of which are shockingly, terrifyingly out of print — including most of the catalog from a golden ’90s decade with Verve. If you can lay hands on TheSpirit of the Ancestors, Saga, Khepera or any of his Portraits trilogy, do it; they will make you whole.

Of the three times I’ve seen Weston live, only one has been transcendent. Once he grilled up an auditorium-pleasing medley of hits such as “Little Niles,” “Hi-Fly” and “Earth Birth.” (Like Monk, he often reframes old tunes.) Another time he seemed a bit tired and distracted in a nearly empty (!) club. But one special night he tapped into the Spirit and just rolled. And his new Zep Tepi, featuring longtime pard Alex Blake on rough-riding bass and Neil Clarke on African percussion — both with him here — sounds like the man’s been drinking from the eternal spring.

Randy Weston’s trio plays the Jazz Bakery, Tues.-Sat., May 9-13.

The Bile

Ain’t no heaven without hell, and the latter got props from Morbid Angel, Behemoth and Krisiun at the Key Club last week. Drummer Max Kolesne brought a fuller dimension of live thunder to Brazil’s Krisiun than even their pugilistically sweaty new DVD captures. Original Florida deathmen Morbid Angel thrashed as of olde behind the hulk and bellow of bassist Steve Tucker, but though all the lights were on Tucker, the most unsettling jolts struck via sporadic sideline outbursts of Trey Azagthoth’s slippery guitar psychosis. Hey, I always thought of it as his band!

Funniest: Wiry vocalist/axman Nergal of Poland’s Behemoth, revving his way through a set that raged from tight acceleration (behind Inferno’s drum boil) to indomitable riff grind to total noise abstraction, paused to take a poll. “I don’t suppose there are any Christians in the audience?” he sneered — receiving a far weaker chorus of “Fuck no!” than he was obviously used to. If he hadn’t been blinded by the stage lights, Lucifer Jr. might’ve noticed that the packed house was largely Latino. I mean, do we have to hate Jesus??


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