Randy Weston ‘African Cookbook’ 4/5

Atlantic Japanese edition re-issue series.

With its striking front cover, ‘African Cookbook’ promises a great deal and in large part delivers with an explosive line-up of Booker Ervin on tenor saxophone, Ray Copeland on trumpet and Big Black on congas. Originally recorded in 1964, it remained in the vaults until 1972 when it was first released on vinyl Quite why it languished in the vaults for some eight years is a mystery, but it is unquestionably one of Randy Weston’s finest moments on record. Dance-floor delight is the only way to describe ‘Niger Mambo’ which has all the feel of Kenny Dorham’s ‘Afrocuban’ sessions for Blue Note in the mid-1950s and while ‘Congolese Children’ features a nursery rhyme sounding intro before vibes and the vocals of Weston enter on this brief, yet joyous number. The lengthy title track is a highly charged affair with bass and percussion stating the theme. Blues-inflected saxophone permeates several pieces with the relaxed opener ‘Berkshire Blues’ another album highlight. Tim Stenhouse