Even if pianist Randy Weston had never written African-inspired compositions (in the 50s), been among the first American jazzmen to visit the continent (early 60s), or settled in Morocco (late 60s), he might still suggest a transplanted African king of noble bearing. Weston’s music, now darkly percussive, now lightly skipping, consciously combines subcutaneous rhythmic subtleties with the harmonic language of the hard-bop era; the crossbreeding should be highlighted by the trio he’s brought to Chicago this week, featuring the African saxophonist Talid Kibwe and conga drummer Big Black. (Black, who was once named Danny Ray, also plays the tumba drum–the bass conga–and between that drum’s low sonorities and Weston’s predilection for the piano’s nether half, you might hear half a set before remembering that this trio carries no bassist.) Weston is among the very few pianists with a style influenced by Thelonious Monk’s unorthodox keyboard technique; but he also offers up frequent references to the keyboard work of Duke Ellington, and in so doing he concretizes the often overlooked lineage between these two individualistic pianists. Tonight through Sunday, Joe Segal’s Jazz Showcase, Blackstone Hotel, 636 S. Michigan; 427-4300.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Cohen.