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Yusef Lateef: Celebrating 75 Years of Music at Roulette in Brooklyn

Scott Krane By

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The world music pioneer, who has in the past decades rightfully garnered many accolades, Adam Rudolph performed on a hand drum set, for most of the performance. The drum set consisted of zabumba, tarijas, djembe and kongos. He also displayed his mastery on such obscure instruments as sinter, cajon, thumb pianos, bells, cup gongs, a kongo slit drum, a selya overtone flute and cymbals.

As the music proceeded, the experiment gradually sped up in tempo. At one point, Lateef recited spoken-word poetry, while percussionist Adam Rudolph sat at the piano using aleatory chord voicings as a percussion instrument. The poem featured a refrain, "We will still have Providence to call on!"

Afterwards, the religiously acoustic performance took jabs at the puritan air when electronic samples and tape loops were heard, subtly and very sporadically. Then a recording became a low-pitched drone, replete with great rustic textures. The teleological structure, or the lack thereof was an important theme throughout the night. The penultimate section of music performed by Yusef Lateef in the flesh was a bluesy call-and-response vocal improvisation against the background of a didgeridoo drone.

Whereas the second half of the evening featured music that slipped in and out of defined rhythm that was devoid of harmony, the first half of the evening, where Lateef was not actually performing on stage with an instrument, showcased music that seemingly had no rhythm but cleverly snaked in and out of harmonies. So the selections were a fascinating musical inversion.

Sonny Rollins once said that Yusef Lateef is "a beacon of inspiration to the music world." Saturday night's performance was a clear showcase of this gift.


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