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02/09/2014 04:11

Q#70 – Yusef Lateef “Eastern Sounds”


In the first days of 2014 we will remember the great artists who passed away in 2013. The best tribute we can pay THEM is to keep on listening and enjoying their artistic work, recognize its value and thank them for having given us so much.


Yusef Lateef

Born William Evans, Oct. 9, 1920 – Dec. 23, 2013

Tenor Saxophone, Flute, Oboe, Argol, Other Intruments

Yusef Lateef, a jazz saxophonist and flutist who spent his career crossing musical boundaries, died at his home in Shutesbury, Mass., near Amherst. He was 93.

Mr. Lateef started out as a tenor saxophonist with a big tone and a bluesy style, not significantly more or less talented than numerous other saxophonists in the crowded jazz scene of the 1940s. He served a conventional jazz apprenticeship, working in the bands of Lucky Millinder, Dizzy Gillespie and others. But by the time he made his first records as a leader, in 1957, he had begun establishing a reputation as a decidedly unconventional musician.

He began expanding his instrumental palette by doubling on flute, by no means a common jazz instrument in those years. He later added oboe, bassoon and non-Western wind instruments like the shehnai and arghul. “My attempts to experiment with new instruments grew out of the monotony of hearing the same old sounds played by the same old horns,” he once told DownBeat magazine. “When I looked into those other cultures, I found that good instruments existed there.”

Those experiments led to an embrace of new influences. At a time when jazz musicians in the United States rarely sought inspiration any farther geographically than Latin America, Mr. Lateef looked well beyond the Western Hemisphere. Anticipating the cross-cultural fusions of later decades, he flavored his music with scales, drones and percussion effects borrowed from Asia and the Middle East. He played world music before world music had a name.

In 2010 he was named a Jazz Master by the National Endowment for the Arts.

by Peter Keepnews, published Dec. 24, 2013, The New York Times (excerpts). Read more here.


Yusef Lateef said (1990): “I dislike the word “jazz” and stopped using it many years ago. I think it debases a great art form. When you look at the associations of that word – blather, rubbish – you will understand what I mean. So I reject it.

Recorded: Sep. 1961

from “The Penguin Jazz Guide – The History of the Music in the 1001 Best Albums”, Brian Morton & Richard Cook, 2010

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4 responses to Q#70 – Yusef Lateef “Eastern Sounds”

  1. Yusef Lateef: a man who could play jazz on a soda-pop bottle, but could really swing on Tenor, Flute or Oboe! My favorite has to be his rendering on Primitivo by the Adderley brothers! RIP…what a legacy!

  2. Chico Hamilton: Not a household name, whose bands introduced Gabor Szabo & Charles Lloyd, among others. Very tasteful drummer. RIP (artist, long deserving of wider recognition). Listen to his recording of music from both, Irma La Douce & Bye Bye Birdie, featuring a very young Charles Lloyd on Tenor & flute.

  3. Bass players: The forgotten heroes…(excepting Mingus, Pastorius & Ray Brown); these are the guys who set the beat, at the bottom of the chordal structure, whose solos go mostly ignored…fortunately, that is changing with the likes of Stanley Clarke & Victor Wooten, among others. Musicians will revel over Oscar Pettiford, Jimmy Blanton, Milt Hinton(all of another era), Richard Davis, Paul Chambers, Percy Heath, Scott LaFaro (still from the past); Christian McBride, Cecil McBee, Ron Carter, Charlie Haden, John Patitucci, Gary Peacock, & a host of others. (I scanned the 100 top bassists of all time, but several names were prominently missing: Willie Ruff (Mitchell-Ruff Duo) & Israel Crosby (Ahmad Jamal trio); several others were over-rated, many, I’d never even heard of (so I would reserve comment),& many were grossly under-rated. (#65-Pettiford(?); #95-Rufus Reid(?)…really?) I would put Eldee Young (unlisted-Ramsey Lewis trio) ahead of many of those actually listed; what about LeRoy Vinnegar, Ben Tucker, Art Davis, Joe Benjamin, George Duvivier, Tommy Potter, Victor Gaskin, Pierre Michelot, Keter Betts? (all unlisted)

  4. As a Conga-drummer, the main thing I cue from is what the bassist is doing. If he is rock-solid, with fine intonation & a fine sense of dynamics, I am in the groove! Still, I really marvel at those guys who play at blitzing-fast tempos, unwavering & still play wild solos: that’s gotta hurt! (Callouses on their fingers bigger than entire hands?) Keep up the groove…you are the man! (Some women are showing up behind the ‘elephant’, too! Ditto!)

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