Yusef Lateef Jazz 'Round the World
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 Impulse, Lateef had made many albums for Verve, Savoy, and Prestige that while certainly a bit left of center, drove mainly down the center of the mainstream tradition. The breakthrough came with the half dozen titles that Lateef cut for Impulse, beginning with 1963's Jazz 'Round the World . The premise was very simple for his debut. Way before the term 'world music' was even coined, Lateef would fashion jazz interpretations from various ethnic melodies while utilizing his vast array of woodwind instruments. It would pay off like a charm, with Lateef's swaggering tenor making the most of "Yusef's French Brother" and "Trouble In Mind" taken to new vistas with our reedman on oboe, of all things.
The ten selections are all on the short side, but Lateef and his ensemble make the most of them. Trumpeter Richard Williams is bristling with kinetic energy and this album serves as a valid reminder of how substantial a talent Williams was, despite unjust ambivalence by the jazz masses during his brief lifetime. Pianist Hugh Lawson, bassist Ernie Farrow (incorrectly dubbed as Ernie Barrows on the original album jacket), and drummer Lex Humphries also do their part in making this one of Lateef's more memorable performances, made all the more thrilling thanks to Rudy Van Gelder's engineering genius.
Other masterpiece would follow for Lateef, particularly 1984 and The Golden Flute , but Jazz 'Round the World remains a personal favorite and serves as testament to the fact that the house of Impulse was built by more than just Trane and his followers.