RANDY WESTON | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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With the recent death of Max Roach, it's tempting to characterize Randy Weston as one of the last living links to the golden era of modern jazz. But though that would be accurate enough, it underplays the 81-year-old pianist's singular style and undimmed vitality. His ongoing fascination with African music--particularly that of Morocco's Gnawa people--continues to inform his writing and soloing, and while last year's superb Zep Tepi (Random Chance) contained only older compositions, it confirmed that Weston still brings substance and power to anything he plays. (Trumpeter Dave Douglas, who recently formed a band to perform Weston's music, suggests that the composer's tunes haven't been widely interpreted by others mainly because it's so hard to top his own versions.) An overwhelming command of the bass register gives his sound a deeply satisfying heft, while his right-hand work delivers strong melodic ideas articulated in spare, heavily percussive bursts. And the interplay of his longtime trio, with bassist Alex Blake and percussionist Neil Clarke, is a study in rhythmic efficiency and near orchestral movement. Weston performs on day two of the African Festival of the Arts; see page 28 for a complete schedule. a 6 PM, Dee Palmer Woodtor stage, African Festival of the Arts, Washington Park, 51st and Cottage Grove, africainternationalhouse.org, $12, $10 in advance, $5 kids and seniors, $30 for a daily family pass (one adult and up to four children) or an adult four-day pass, $90 for a weekend family pass (two adults and four children). A --Peter Margasak

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