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.
Jazz and the blues--because together this musical brother and sister speak from our nation's days of the current cultural affairs and the authenticity and truth of a place where the rhythms held the pulse and the drums the heartbeat, representing every step closer the meat on the bone
Jazz and the blues--because together this musical brother and sister speak from our nation's days of the current cultural affairs and the authenticity and truth of a place where the rhythms held the pulse and the drums the heartbeat, representing every step closer the meat on the bone. Feet in the dirt, or barefoot on a stage with sequins--it's soul beats in my chest.
I was first exposed to jazz while others listened to surf music in the '50s and '60s, it was Monk, Miles, Satchmo and Ella, Rosemary Clooney and Julie London followed. Margaret Whiting, Les McCann, Willie Bobo, Andy Simpkins, Snooky Young, Bill Basie and Helen Humes. The first time I heard Topsy, Take 2, I about passed out at the age of ten.
I've hung with Les McCann who more than 30 years after our first meeting became my duet partner on my CD, Don't Go To Strangers. Karen Hernandez from the start, Jack Le Compte on drums, Lou Shoch on bass, Steve Rawlins as my arranger and pianist, Grant Geissman - guitar genius, Nolan Shaheed, Richard Simon, and more. The big boys. My Red Hot Papas. The best show I ever attended was...
I met Helen Humes first back in 1981 and helped turn one Playboy Jazz Festival night into her tribute, bring the Basie Band to stage, her joy boys. Before she took the stage for the last time to sing, If I could Be With You One Hour Tonight thousands of copies of the newspaper I wrote for carried her story. It was kismet, her being held by Joe Williams backstage. Soon in my life were the great Linda Hopkins who told me I sang the song she wrote better than her, which floored me of course, the energizing Barbara Morrison and the stellar Marilyn Maye who guided me professionally.
My advice to new listeners... let your backbone slip and feel your body stripping back the barriers that prevent us from being one with the music.
Remember none of us are strangers, we just haven't met yet.