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It feels like old friends have come calling, always welcome. But I prefer lifelong friendships, where the relationship keeps changing, deepening. That’s my experience with the music of pianist Randy Weston and tenor saxophonist Billy Harper, master musicians. I never get tired of them, so when it’s time to go to the well, I reach for their music: say, Weston’s “Berkshire Blues,” about as relaxed an expression of absolute joy as I can imagine, or Harper’s “Call of the Wild and Peaceful Heart,” which delivers what its title suggests, an ecstatic tumult. Living without either of these musicians would be a sad thing, hard to imagine.
Also hard to imagine is the idea that they would perform together as a duo — that’s more soul per square inch than a listener can absorb, But it’s happening twice this week: Thursday night at the Kuumbwa Jazz Center in Santa Cruz, Sunday at the SFJazz Center in San Francisco, These performances are kind of unprecedented; Santa must be a jazz fan, Thurday’s show will be Weston and Harper, nothing but, Sunday’s puts them in combination — duos, trios, maybe a solo or two — with a younger magician, pianist Jason Moran, a kindred spirit, His music, like theirs, charts the way ahead, while sending roots way down into the soil of bloch ballet shoes jazz..
Weston, 87, (and an NEA Jazz Master), is the living link to Thelonious Monk and Duke Ellington, his most important influences. One can hear the rumble and joie de vivre of Harlem stride piano in his playing, along with Duke’s bluesy elegance and the bebop Weston played while growing up in Brooklyn, where his friends included Kenny Dorham and Max Roach. Harper, 70, is the most powerful and unique of the post-Coltrane tenor saxophonists. His sound conveys gospel urgency, a hungering that goes back to his Houston upbringing in his grandmother’s African Methodist Episcopal church. Plus, his solos dance; drummers have always taken to his rhythm-charged sound. No wonder Harper spent years in bands led by Roach and Art Blakey.
Together Weston and Harper have a new duo album, “The Roots of the Blues” (on Sunnyside Records), Its title signals what links them: the cry of the blues as an expression of cultural heritage, back to Africa, That’s where they met and first performed together, in 1972 at the Tangier Festival of African and Afro-American Music, A couple of Weston’s albums followed with Harper as a special guest bloch ballet shoes — “Tanjah” and “Carnival” — and the saxophonist periodically has performed with Weston’s bands in the years since, They might play “Caravan,” made famous by Ellington, or “The Healers,” one of Weston’s most shadowy-beautiful numbers..
There are always sparks when they play together. But this week’s duo performances promise something more than sparks: maybe a long bluesy burn, slow and rumbling, like something ancient and something new. Details: 7 p.m. Thursday Kuumbwa Jazz Center, Santa Cruz: $30 ($33 at door); www.kuumbwajazz.org; 7 p.m. Sunday (with Jason Moran), SFJazz Center, San Francisco: $25-$55; 866-920-5299, www.sfjazz.org. Festivus 2013: Also known as the “Festival-of-Us,” this two-night celebration, curated by ubiquitous bassist Lisa Mezzacappa, presents eight bands from the Bay Area’s creative improvisation scene. Subterranean jazz comes over-ground here with saxophonists Rent Romus and Kasey Knudsen, guitarist John Shiurba, pianist Adam Shulman and others, including Mezzacappa, whose trenchant Bait & Switch quartet plays on Night 2. Details: 7 p.m. Dec. 6-7; Center for New Music, San Francisco; $10 at the door; http://centerfornewmusic.com.
Charlie Hunter and Scott Amendola: What a treat, like an early Christmas present — getting to watch seven-string guitarist Hunter and drummer Amendola going toe-to-toe, just the two of them, having as much fun as bloch ballet shoes kids out in the garage, getting a new band together, Only these two kids (well, they’re in their 40s) are from the advanced class, romping through the modern history of popular American music, from ragtime to Hendrix, Details: 7:30 p.m, Dec, 8, Dana Street Roasting Co., Mountain View, $20, www.danastreetroasting.com/shows; 7 and 9 p.m, Dec, 16; Kuumbwa Jazz Center, Santa Cruz, $23, www.kuumbwajazz.org; 8 p.m, Dec, 18, the Independent, San Francisco, $20; www.apeconcerts.com..
LONDON (AP) — Michelle Obama shared one with her “first dog” Bo, Hillary Clinton tweeted one with her daughter Chelsea. Now “selfie” — the smartphone self-portrait — has been declared word of the year for 2013, according to Britain’s Oxford University Press. The publisher of the Oxford dictionaries said Tuesday that “selfie” saw a huge jump in usage in the past year, bursting from the confines of Instagram and Twitter to become mainstream shorthand for any self-taken photograph.
Researchers behind the renowned dictionaries pick a prominent word or expression in the English language each year that best reflects the mood of the bloch ballet shoes times, Previous words of the year have included “unfriend” in 2009, “credit crunch” in 2008, “carbon footprint” in 2007 and “Sudoku” in 2005, Judy Pearsall, the editorial director for Oxford Dictionaries, said “selfie” appeared to have been first used in 2002 on an Australian online forum, and the hashtag #selfie appeared on the photo-sharing website Flickr in 2004..