But then he traveled to North Africa, and this experience affected him so strongly that he returned there and stayed in the Moroccan town of Marrakesh for three years. Weston's father had instilled in him a pride in his African ancestry; as a result, the pianist had long been interested in African music, history, and spirituality (as early as 1954, he composed a song entitled "Zulu"). In Marrakesh he began working closely with musicians from the Gnawa minority who practice a Sufi-influenced form of Islam and use music and dance to induce trance states.
The encounter with Africa did not so much change Weston's music as bring into focus elements that were already there. He no longer refers to his music as "jazz," but only as African rhythms, and this rhythmic thrust has come to the fore in his piano playing, harkening back to the ideas he absorbed as a young man from Monk. For many years Weston has been performing in tandem with bassist Alex Blake and African percussionist Neil Clarke. This is not the standard jazz piano trio in which bass and drums create a background for the melodic and harmonic explorations of the main instrument. Rather, the lead keeps shifting between the three members, and often it seems that there are three rhythm instruments. They will be at Kerrytown Concert House on Saturday, March 20.
[Originally published in March, 2010.]