This interview was originally published in February 2000. Yusef Lateef will tell you--politely, firmly, insistently, frequently--that he does not play jazz. He was born Bill Evans in Chattanooga (TN), but grew up in Detroit a tenor saxophone student who in the 1940s worked and studied alongside the likes of Roy Eldridge, Dizzy Gillespie and Hot Lips Page. In the 1950s, he studied composition and flute at Wayne State University; shortly thereafter he assumed the name Yusef Lateef and began recording as a leader. Lateef kept working with important jazz musicians, such as Kenny Burrell, Curtis Fuller, ...read more
Rarely in the history of contemporary American music has one artist iconized as many aspects of organized sound as Yusef Lateef who appeared in Brooklyn, New York on Saturday night, April 6, at the new Brooklyn version of the Manhattan performance space, Roulette, near the new Barclay's Arena. In a two-hour performance billed, Yusef Lateef: Celebrating 75 years of music," the 92-year-old remnant of modern jazz displayed the breadth of his musical imagination in a four-part concert.The Grammy Award-winning musician began recording on Impulse Records in the first half of the '60s, and Savoy Records in the decade before. ...read more
Roots Run Deep forms a further installment in the ongoing strand of investigation into the marriage of words and music, which has found a home on the Paris-based Rogue Art label, that also includes Maison Hantee (2009). It's unusual in that though issued under the name of veteran multi instrumentalist Yusef Lateef, the work was actually conceived by filmmaker Nicolas Humbert and engineer Marc Parisotto. The two Frenchmen are credited with composition; having assembled the 34-minute program by matching the American's separately captured instrumental improvisations to recitations of his idiosyncratic stories.Humbert was in part responsible for the 2005 ...read more
Think back fifty years to the days portrayed on the TV series Mad Men. In 1961, John Kennedy and Billboard's Easy Listening Chart were inaugurated, a freedom riders bus was fire-bombed in Alabama, Rock Hudson was on the big screen, and Doris Day was selling albums. As teenagers and their swinging parents were twisting their brains out to Chubby Checker or the authentic music by the King Curtis Combo," East German communists began construction of the Berlin Wall, the Beach Boys formed in California, and The Beatles performed, for the first time, at the Cavern Club in ...read more
This 2008 release of a live 1975 performance at San Francisco's Keystone Korner may appeal to Lateef completists, but those still new to him or curious about his fame might consider starting elsewhere.The first of Ten Years Hence's five long numbers is Bob Cunningham's three-part Samba De Amor," which begins with the bassist bowing and plucking alongside the sound of cowbells, horns, whoops and other vocalizations, and Lateef on transverse flute. Fully five minutes on, a light but entertaining enough samba takes shape. The quiet middle section, Time Montage," provides a puzzling pause with woodwinds and bells, although ...read more
Every work of art is part form, part substance and part emotion. The double CD Influence, by Yusef Lateef and the Belmondo brothers, has the beauty of form of an impressionist canvas, the depth and the complexity of a mathematical equation, but the emotional sterility of a doctor's office.
The music is a blend of complex and precise improvisations and melodies from around the world, including 19th Century Europe, the Middle East, the Far East and Africa, all peppered with a jazz sensibility. The three multi-instrumentalist virtuosos in the front line forge their individual voices into a sound sculpture without ...read more
Eastern Sounds, newly remastered by Rudy van Gelder (the storied engineer who recorded the original September 1961 session), marks an early stage in Yusef Lateef's development. In particular, the record highlights two characteristics that would come to define his artistic identity: a spiritual streak and a fascination with non-Western music. Like John Coltrane (whose path resembles Lateef's in these respects) on My Favorite Things," Lateef here frequently incorporates Eastern sounds" in the form of modal vamps.This musical cross-pollination succeeds in several instances. Ching Miau" evokes Coltrane's classic quartet in its hints of layered rhythms, and also in the ...read more
Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3 | Day 4 | Day 5 | Day 6 | Day 7 | Day 8 | Day 9 | Day 10 | Day 11
Day eight of the TD Canada Trust Ottawa International Jazz Festival saw the welcome return of one artist, the first time appearance of another, and an exciting and spiritual performance by a jazz legend.
When guitarist Rez Abbasi played at The Bayou eighteen months ago, the performance was marred by assorted technical problems--all the responsibility of the club. Organist Gary Versace was situated so far back that it ...read more
Yusef Lateef is one of the first practitioners of our music" to embrace the other", those peoples and cultures far removed geographically and often ideologically from the sounds and sensibilities of North America. A renaissance man for the new millennium, Lateef is a philosopher, organologist, composer/arranger/performer, educator, author and acoustic Argonaut. He'll be in town in January for Detroit: Motor City Jazz" at Jazz at Lincoln Center, a concert series featuring fellow Detroit alumni Charles McPherson, Ron Carter, Marcus Belgrave and Curtis Fuller. In a recent phone conversation, Lateef shared his thoughts about growing up in Detroit, music education, uses ...read more
This is a welcome reissue of one of a series of fine Impulse! albums by multi-instrumentalist Yusef Lateef that have never taken their deserved place among the major recordings of the '60s. I suspect part of the reason for their neglect has to do with the image, helped by both the Impulse!, and later Atlantic labels, in portraying Lateef as a purveyor of hopelessly arcane musical exotica. The weird title of this album doesn't help any more than the 2005 front cover copy crowing about how this music is mysterious and uncategorizable." I find it nothing of ...read more
Yusef Lateef Jazz 'Round the World Impulse! 1963
With a recent article in JazzTimes covering the history of Impulse Records and the role that prime mover John Coltrane made in securing the label's place in history, it occurred to me that there are still holes in the catalog's reissue program. Aside from Archie Shepp and Pharoah Sanders, both heavily caught up in Coltrane's trajectory, multi-instrumentalist Yusef Lateef was a vital member of the Impulse family who made his most mature recorded statements during the sixties while following his own path.
Prior to signing with ...read more
It’s a shame that Yusef Lateef is relegated to the second tier of jazz musicians, left as an artist who is known more for his work as a sideman. His abilities as a multi-instrumentalist place him a category with Roland Kirk, yet with none of the acclaim. It’s true that on his Atlantic releases Lateef was saddled with inferior material, but his earlier recordings are adventurous, melodic, and quite satisfying. The Golden Flute is a marvelous recording from 1966 that showcases Lateef’s ability to sustain a warm groove through a well-designed program of originals and standards.
“Road Runner” ...read more
Adam Rudolph’s third recording with the Go:Organic Orchestra finds the master percussionist in collaboration with longtime friend and associate, jazz legend Yusef Lateef. The recording documents a performance at Venice’s Electric Lodge, a homebase for Rudolph. Uniting 22 of our town’s most interesting musicians including Emily Hay, Bennie Maupin, Sara Schoenbeck, Chris Heenan, Cory Wright, Alex Cline, and Harris Eisenstadt, In the Garden features performances from the entire orchestra as well as moving duets by Rudolph and Lateef. The two co-conspirators have evolved a compositional system so intimate they finish each other’s lines, and so flexible that Rudolph influences the ...read more
Slip this disc into your player and be prepared to be transported into the skin of the vibrant drum and the unfettered melody of water and wind singing in primeval harmony with the earth. And let us not forget the Babel of voices—man, first reveling in the glory of the earth’s perfect design, but soon lamenting the impending destruction of its perfect balance. Be warned, this is not just Eden, but the time and continuum of its creation. It is, therefore, the act of creation, a period of fascination of the beauty of the dissonance in symmetry, and the inevitable ...read more
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