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Yusef Lateef: The Last Savoy Sessions

AAJ Staff By

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Savoy Jazz is taking its re-issues seriously, and so is Orrin Keepnews, the re-issue producer. With taste, dedication, craftsmanship, attention to detail, and style, Savoy recently has released actually an astounding and seemingly uninterrupted series of recordings from Savoy's heyday. The jazz world is the better for the re-releases, allowing us to investigate the nooks and crannies of earlier jazz work and to revise our assumptions and to add to our knowledge and to acknowledge various influences that heretofore may have been forgotten. Yusef Lateef's work on Savoy over a little more than two years is nothing less than astounding in its output and creativity. "The Last Savoy Sessions" actually include two CD's of Lateefian streams of musical consciousness, as the thoughts flow through his instrument. The volume of work he did on Savoy, though, was so prodigious that even more re-releases are in the wings, including additional recordings of the group that included Wilbur Harden, as well as a yet-unreleased album of Lateef's session with Curtis Fuller. The two CD's on "The Last Savoy Sessions" document what seems to be a critical and prolific period in Lateef's career, as he builds upon his touring band learnings from Lucky Millinder and Hot Lips Page and starts to flaunt the validity of jazz flauting, so much so that Lateef's work started hitting the airwaves regularly. In addition, his interest in Middle Eastern modes and instrumentation, as well as his introduction of the oboe into the jazz vernacular, shows up on "The Last Savoy Sessions." While everyone by now expects Lateef to go multi-instrumental on his recordings, the surprise for me on both CD's is his strength in building suspense and sensitivity on the ballads, sounding quite a bit like Lucky Thompson in his soft timbre on the low notes and his seemingly effortless meandering as he fills a rest or extends a melodic idea. The two CD's are contrasted by the company that Lateef keeps, changing out the rhythm sections, but more importantly substituting flugelhornist Wilbur Harden on the 1957 session with euphoniumist (if such a word exists) Bernard McKinney on the 1959 session. While Lateef remains consistent, the mellowness and counterpoint of the euphonium stands in strong contrast to Harden's witty and middle-register work. In fact, Harden's work on disk two, first recorded as the albums "Jazz And The Sounds Of Nature" and "Prayer To The East," remains one of the very few artifacts remaining about his foreshortened promise and his mysterious life (the other being Savoy's Harden/Coltrane re-release). Now approaching 80, Lateef deserves that re-appreciation that Savoy Jazz loyally and diligently provides.


Track Listing: Savoy Jazz is taking its re-issues seriously, and so is Orrin Keepnews, the re-issue producer. With taste, dedication, craftsmanship, attention to detail, and style, Savoy recently has released actually an astounding and seemingly uninterrupted series of recordings from Savoy's heyday. The jazz world is the better for the re-releases, allowing us to investigate the nooks and crannies of earlier jazz work and to revise our assumptions and to add to our knowledge and to acknowledge various influences that heretofore may have been forgotten. Yusef Lateef's work on Savoy over a little more than two years is nothing less than astounding in its output and creativity. "The Last Savoy Sessions" actually include two CD's of Lateefian streams of musical consciousness, as the thoughts flow through his instrument. The volume of work he did on Savoy, though, was so prodigious that even more re-releases are in the wings, including additional recordings of the group that included Wilbur Harden, as well as a yet-unreleased album of Lateef's session with Curtis Fuller. The two CD's on "The Last Savoy Sessions" document what seems to be a critical and prolific period in Lateef's career, as he builds upon his touring band learnings from Lucky Millinder and Hot Lips Page and starts to flaunt the validity of jazz flauting, so much so that Lateef's work started hitting the airwaves regularly. In addition, his interest in Middle Eastern modes and instrumentation, as well as his introduction of the oboe into the jazz vernacular, shows up on "The Last Savoy Sessions." While everyone by now expects Lateef to go multi-instrumental on his recordings, the surprise for me on both CD's is his strength in building suspense and sensitivity on the ballads, sounding quite a bit like Lucky Thompson in his soft timbre on the low notes and his seemingly effortless meandering as he fills a rest or extends a melodic idea. The two CD's are contrasted by the company that Lateef keeps, changing out the rhythm sections, but more importantly substituting flugelhornist Wilbur Harden on the 1957 session with euphoniumist (if such a word exists) Bernard McKinney on the 1959 session. While Lateef remains consistent, the mellowness and counterpoint of the euphonium stands in strong contrast to Harden's witty and middle-register work. In fact, Harden's work on disk two, first recorded as the albums "Jazz And The Sounds Of Nature" and "Prayer To The East," remains one of the very few artifacts remaining about his foreshortened promise and his mysterious life (the other being Savoy's Harden/Coltrane re-release). Now approaching 80, Lateef deserves that re-appreciation that Savoy Jazz loyally and diligently provides. Disk One - Oboe Blues, Angel Eyes, The Dreamer, Arjuna, Can't Help Lovin' That Man, Moon Tree, Stella By Starlight, Valse Bouk, Half Breed, Poor Butterfly Disk Two - 8540 Twelfth Street, Check Blues, Prayer To The East, A Night In Tunisia, Lover Man, Endura, Love Dance, Gypsy Arab, Sram

Personnel:

Yusef Lateef, tenor sax, flute, oboe; Wilbur Harden, flugelhorn, balloon; Bernard McKinney, euphonium; Terry Pollard, Hugh Lawson, piano; Bill Austin, Ernie Farrow, bass, rabat; Frank Gant, Oliver Jackson, drums

| Record Label: Savoy Jazz | Style: Straight-ahead/Mainstream


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