Monday, December 30, 2013

Yusef Lateef, Pioneer of World Music

Yusef Lateef, Innovative Jazz Saxophonist and Flutist, Dies at 93


Alan Nahigian

Yusef Lateef in April. He sought inspriation well beyond the Western Hemisphere and anticipated cross-cultural fusions.
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Yusef Lateef, a jazz saxophonist and flutist who spent his career crossing musical boundaries, died on Monday at his home in Shutesbury, Mass., near Amherst. He was 93.
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His death was announced on his website.
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 later years he incorporated elements of contemporary concert music and composed symphonic and chamber works. African influences became more noticeable in his music when he spent four years studying and teaching in Nigeria in the early 1980s.
Mr. Lateef professed to find the word “jazz” limiting and degrading; he preferred “autophysiopsychic music,” a term he invented. He further distanced himself from the jazz mainstream in 1980 when he declared that he would no longer perform any place where alcohol was served. “Too much blood, sweat and tears have been spilled creating this music to play it where people are smoking, drinking and talking,” he explained to The Boston Globe in 1999.
Still, with its emphasis on melodic improvisation and rhythmic immediacy, his music was always recognizably jazz at its core. And as far afield as his music might roam, his repertoire usually included at least a few Tin Pan Alley standards and, especially, plenty of blues.
He was born on Oct. 9, 1920, in Chattanooga, Tenn. Many sources give his birth name as William Evans, the name under which he performed and recorded before converting to Islam in the late 1940s (he belonged to the reformist Ahmadiyya Muslim Community) and changing his name to Yusef Abdul Lateef. But according to Mr. Lateef’s website, he was born William Emanuel Huddleston.
When he was 5 his family moved to Detroit, where he went on to study saxophone at Miller High School. After spending most of the 1940s on the road as a sideman with various big bands, he returned to Detroit in 1950 to care for his ailing wife and ended up staying for a decade.
While in Detroit he became a popular and respected fixture on the local nightclub scene and a mentor to younger musicians. He also resumed his studies, taking courses in flute and composition at Wayne State University and later studying oboe as well.
In the later part of the decade he began traveling regularly from Detroit to the East Coast with his working band to record for the Savoy and Prestige labels. By 1960 he had settled in New York, where he worked with Charles Mingus, Cannonball Adderley and the Nigerian percussionist Babatunde Olatunji before forming his own quartet in 1964.
He was soon a bona fide jazz star, with successful albums on the Impulse and Atlantic labels and a busy touring schedule. But he also remained a student, and he eventually became a teacher as well.
He received a bachelor’s and a master’s degree from the Manhattan School of Music, and taught both there and at Borough of Manhattan Community College in the 1970s. He earned a doctorate in education from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, in 1975 (his dissertation: “An Overview of Western and Islamic Education”) and later taught there and elsewhere in New England.
The more he studied, the more ambitious Mr. Lateef grew as a composer. He recorded his seven-movement “Symphonic Blues Suite” in 1970 and his “African-American Epic Suite,” a four-part work for quintet and orchestra, two decades later. His album “Yusef Lateef’s Little Symphony,” on which he played all the instruments via overdubbing, won aGrammy Award in 1988, though not in any of the jazz or classical categories; it was named best New Age performance. Mr. Lateef said at the time that, while he was grateful for the award, he didn’t know what New Age music was.
In 2010 he was named a Jazz Master by the National Endowment for the Arts.
Mr. Lateef is survived by his wife, Ayesha; a son, Yusef; a granddaughter; and several great-grandchildren. His first wife, Tahira, died before him, as did a son and a daughter.
His creative output was not limited to music. He painted, wrote poetry and published several books of fiction. He also ran his own record company, YAL, which he established in 1992.
He remained musically active until a few months before his death. In April he appeared at Roulette in Brooklyn in a program titled “Yusef Lateef: Celebrating 75 Years of Music,” performing with the percussionist Adam Rudolph and presenting the premieres of two works, one for string quartet and the other for piano.

***

Yusef Abdul Lateef (born William Emanuel Huddleston, October 9, 1920 – December 23, 2013) was an American jazz multi-instrumentalist, composer and educator.  He became a member of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community after his conversion to the Ahmadiyya sect of Islam in 1950.
Although Lateef's main instruments were the tenor saxophone and flute, he also played oboe and bassoon, both rare in jazz, and also used a number of non-western instruments such as the bamboo flute, shanai, shofar, xun, arghul and koto. He is known for having been an innovator in the blending of jazz with "Eastern" music.
 
Lateef wrote and published a number of books including two novellas entitled A Night in the Garden of Love and Another Avenue, the short story collections Spheres and Rain Shapes, along with his autobiography, The Gentle Giant, written in collaboration with Herb Boyd.  Along with his record label YAL Records, Lateef owned Fana Music, a music publishing company. Lateef published his own work through Fana, which includes Yusef Lateef's Flute Book of the Blues and many of his own orchestral compositions.

Lateef was born in Chattanooga, Tennessee. His family moved, in 1923, to Lorain, Ohio and again in 1925, to Detroit, Michigan, where his father changed the family's name to "Evans".
Throughout his early life, Lateef came into contact with many Detroit-based jazz musicians who went on to gain prominence, including vibraphonist Milt Jackson, bassist Paul Chambers, drummer Elvin Jones and guitarist Kenny Burrell. Lateef was a proficient saxophonist by the time of his graduation from high school at the age of 18, when he launched his professional career and began touring with a number of swing bands.
In 1949, he was invited by Dizzy Gillespie to tour with his orchestra. In 1950, Lateef returned to Detroit and began his studies in composition and flute at Wayne State University. It was during this period that he converted to Islam and became a member of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community.

Lateef began recording as a leader in 1957 for Savoy Records, a non-exclusive association which continued until 1959.  The earliest of Lateef's album's for the Prestige subsidiary New Jazz overlap with them. Musicians such as Wilbur Harden (trumpet, flugelhorn), bassist Herman Wright, drummer Frank Gant, and pianist Hugh Lawson were among his collaborators during this period.
By 1961, with the recording of Into Something and Eastern Sounds, Lateef's dominant presence within a group context had emerged. His 'Eastern' influences are clearly audible in all of these recordings, with spots for instruments like the rahab, shanai, arghul, koto and a collection of Chinese wooden flutes and bells along with his tenor and flute. Even his use of the western oboe sounds exotic in this context; it is not a standard jazz instrument. Indeed, the tunes themselves are a mixture of jazz standards, blues and film music usually performed with a piano/bass/drums rhythm section in support. Lateef made numerous contributions to other people's albums including his time as a member of saxophonist Cannonball Adderley's Quintet during 1962–64.
Lateef's sound has been claimed to have been a major influence on the saxophonist John Coltrane, whose later period free jazz recordings contain similarly 'Eastern' traits. For a time (1963–66) Lateef was signed to Coltrane's label, Impulse. He had a regular working group during this period, with trumpeter Richard Williams and Mike Nock on piano.
In the late 1960s, Lateef began to incorporate contemporary soul and gospel phrasing into his music, still with a strong blues underlay, on albums such as Detroit and Hush'n'Thunder. Lateef expressed a dislike of the terms "jazz" and "jazz musician" as musical generalizations. As is so often the case with such generalizations, the use of these terms do understate the breadth of his sound. For example, in the 1980s, Lateef experimented with new age and spiritual elements.
In 1960, Lateef again returned to school, studying flute at the Manhattan School of Music in New York City. He received a Bachelor's Degree in Music in 1969 and a Master's Degree in Music Education in 1970. Starting in 1971, he taught courses in autophysiopsychic music at the Manhattan School of Music, and he became an associate professor at the Borough of Manhattan Community College in 1972.
In 1975, Lateef completed his dissertation on Western and Islamic education and earned a Ed.D. in Education from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. In the early 1980s, Lateef was a Senior Research Fellow at the Center for Nigerian Cultural Studies at Ahmadu Bello University in the city of Zaria, Nigeria. Returning to the United States in 1986 he took a joint teaching position at the University of Massachusetts and Hampshire College.
 
Lateef's 1987 album Yusef Lateef's Little Symphony won the Grammy Award for Best New Age Album. His core influences, however, were clearly rooted in jazz, and in his own words: "My music is jazz."
 
In 1992, Lateef founded YAL Records. In 1993, Lateef was commissioned by the WDR Radio Orchestra Cologne to composeThe African American Epic Suite, a four-part work for orchestra and quartet based on themes of slavery and disfranchisement in the United States. The piece has since been performed by the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and the Detroit Symphony Orchestra.
In 2010, Lateef received the lifetime Jazz Master Fellowship Award from NEA, the National Endowment for the Arts, an independent federal agency.
 
The Manhattan School of Music, where Lateef earned a bachelor's and a master's degree, awarded him a Distinguished Alumni Award in 2012.

Lateef's last albums were recorded for Adam Rudolph's "Meta Records". To the end of his life, he continued to teach at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and Hampshire College in western Massachusetts. Lateef died on the morning of December 23, 2013 at the age of 93 after suffering from prostate cancer.

The discography of Yusef Lateef include the following:
Savoy 1957-1959
  • Jazz for the Thinker (1957)
  • Jazz Mood (1957)
  • Jazz and the Sounds of Nature (1957)
  • Prayer to the East (1957)
  • The Dreamer (1959)
  • The Fabric of Jazz (1959)
Impulse! 1963-1966
  • Jazz 'Round the World (1963)
  • Live at Pep's (1964)
  • 1984 (1965)
  • Psychicemotus (1965)
  • A Flat, G Flat and C (1966)
  • The Golden Flute (1966)
Atlantic 1967 -1991
  • The Complete Yusef Lateef (1967)
  • The Blue Yusef Lateef (1968)
  • Yusef Lateef's Detroit (1969)
  • The Diverse Yusef Lateef (1969)
  • Suite 16 (1970)
  • The Gentle Giant (1971)
  • Hush 'N' Thunder (1972)
  • Part of the Search (1973)
  • 10 Years Hence (1974)
  • The Doctor is In... and Out (1976)
  • Yusef Lateef's Little Symphony (1987)
  • Concerto for Yusef Lateef (1988)
  • Nocturnes (1989)
  • Meditations (1990)
  • Yusef Lateef's Encounters (1991)
YAL Records 1992-2002
  • Tenors of Yusef Lateef and Von Freeman (1992)
  • Heart Vision (1992)
  • Yusef Lateef Plays Ballads (1993)
  • Tenors of Yusef Lateef and Archie Shepp (1993)
  • Woodwinds (1993)
  • Tenors of Yusef Lateef & Ricky Ford (1994)
  • Yusef Lateef's Fantasia for Flute (1996)
  • Full Circle (1996)
  • CHNOPS: Gold & Soul (1997)
  • Earth and Sky (1997)
  • 9 Bagatelles (1998)
  • Like the Dust (1998)
  • Live at Luckman Theater (2001)
  • Earriptus (2001)
  • So Peace (2002)
  • A Tribute Concert for Yusef Lateef: YAL's 10th Anniversary (2002)
Meta Records
  • The World at Peace (1997)
  • Beyond the Sky (2000)
  • Go: Organic Orchestra: In the Garden (2003)
  • Towards the Unknown (2010)
  • Voice Prints (2013)
Other labels
  • Before Dawn: The Music of Yusef Lateef (Verve, 1957)
  • The Sounds of Yusef (Prestige, 1957)
  • Other Sounds (New Jazz, 1957)
  • Lateef at Cranbrook (Argo, 1958)
  • Cry! - Tender (New Jazz, 1959)
  • The Three Faces of Yusef Lateef (Riverside, 1960)
  • The Centaur and the Phoenix (Riverside, 1960)
  • Lost in Sound (Charlie Parker, 1961)
  • Eastern Sounds (Moodsville, 1961)
  • Into Something (New Jazz, 1961)
  • Autophysiopsychic (1977, CTI Records)
  • In a Temple Garden (1979, CTI Records)
  • Yusef Lateef in Nigeria (Landmark, 1983)
  • Influence with Lionel and St├ęphane Belmondo (2005)
  • Roots Run Deep (Rogue Art, 2012)
With Cannonball Adderley
  • The Cannonball Adderley Sextet in New York (Riverside, 1962)
  • Cannonball in Europe! (Riverside, 1962)
  • Jazz Workshop Revisited (Riverside, 1962)
  • Autumn Leaves (Riverside, 1963)
  • Nippon Soul (Riverside, 1963)
With Nat Adderley
  • That's Right! (Riverside, 1960)
With Ernestine Anderson
  • My Kinda Swing (1960)
With Art Blakey
  • The African Beat (1962)
With Donald Byrd
  • Byrd Jazz (Transition, 1955)
  • First Flight (1957)
With Paul Chambers
  • 1st Bassman (1961)
With Art Farmer
  • Something You Got (CTI, 1977)
With Curtis Fuller
  • Images of Curtis Fuller (Savoy, 1960)
  • Boss of the Soul-Stream Trombone (Warwick, 1960)
  • Gettin' It Together (1961)
With Grant Green
  • Grantstand (Blue Note, 1961)
With Slide Hampton
  • Drum Suite (1962)
With Louis Hayes
  • Louis Hayes featuring Yusef Lateef & Nat Adderley (1960)
With Les McCann
  • Invitation to Openness (1972)
With Don McLean
  • Homeless Brother (1973)
With Charles Mingus
  • Pre-Bird (aka, Mingus Revisited, 1960)
With Babatunde Olatunji
  • Drums of Passion (1960)
With Sonny Red
  • Breezing (Jazzland, 1960)
With Leon Redbone
  • Double Time (Warner Bros., 1976)
With Clark Terry
  • Color Changes (1960)
With Doug Watkins
  • Soulnik (New Jazz, 1960)
With Randy Weston
  • Uhuru Afrika (Roulette, 1960)
With Frank Wess
  • Jazz Is Busting Out All Over (1957)

***




Jazz Man Yusef Lateef, Who Embraced World Music, Dies at 93




Jazz musician Yusef Lateef dead
Redferns/Getty Images

Grammy-winning musician and composer Yusef Lateef, one of the first to incorporate world music into traditional jazz, has died Monday at his home in Shutesbury in western Massachusetts. He was 93.
Lateef, a tenor saxophonist known for his impressive technique, also became a top flutist. He was a jazz soloist on the oboe and played bassoon. He introduced different types of flutes and other woodwind instruments from many countries into his music and is credited with playing world music before it was officially named.
“I believe that all humans have knowledge,” he said in a 2009 interview for the National Endowment for the Arts. “Each culture has some knowledge. That’s why I studied with Saj Dev, an Indian flute player. That’s why I studied Stockhausen’s music. The pygmies’ music of the rain forest is very rich music. So the knowledge is out there. And I also believe one should seek knowledge from the cradle to the grave. With that kind of inquisitiveness, one discovers things that were unknown before.”
As a composer, he created works for performers ranging from soloists to bands to choirs. His longer pieces have been played by symphony orchestras throughout the U.S. and in Germany. In 1987, he won a Grammy for his new age recording “Yusef Lateef’s Little Symphony,” on which he played all of the instruments.
In 2010, he was named an NEA Jazz Master, the nation’s highest jazz honor.
Lateef had an international following and toured extensively in the U.S., Europe, Japan and Africa. He most recently toured last summer.
He held a bachelor’s degree in music and a master’s degree in music education from the Manhattan School of Music, and from 1987 to 2002, he was a professor at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst, from which he was awarded a doctorate in education.
He created his own music theory called Autophysiopsychic Music, which he described in the NEA interview as “music from one’s physical, mental and spiritual self, and also from the heart.”
Born William Emanuel Huddleston in Chattanooga, Tenn., in 1920, Lateef moved with his family to Detroit five years later. He became acquainted with many top musicians who were part of Detroit’s active music scene, and by age 18, he was touring professionally with swing bands led by Lucky Millinder, Roy Eldridge, Hot Lips Page and Ernie Fields.
In 1949, he was invited to perform with the Dizzy Gillespie Orchestra, which was playing bebop. He took the name Yusef Lateef after becoming a member of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community and twice made the pilgrimage to Mecca.
He became a fixture on the Detroit jazz scene in the 1950s leading his own quintet. In 1960, he moved to New York and joined Charles Mingus’ band. Lateef went on to perform with some of jazz’s best talent, including Cannonball Adderley, Donald Byrd and Miles Davis.
Lateef first began recording under his own name in 1956 for Savoy Records and made more than 100 recordings as a leader for such labels as Prestige, Impulse, Atlantic and his own YAL. His most enduring early recordings included such songs as “Love Theme from Spartacus” and “Morning.”
In the 1980s, he taught at a university in Nigeria, where he did research into the Fulani flute.
Lateef formed his own label, YAL Records, in 1992, which released an extended suite, “The World at Peace,” co-composed with percussionist Adam Rudolph. He also wrote a four-movement work for quintet and orchestra, “The African American Epic Suite,” which was commissioned and performed by the WDR Orchestra in Germany in 1993.
He is survived by his wife, Ayesha Lateef; son Yusef Lateef; a granddaughter; and great-grandchildren.
***

Yusef Lateef is a Grammy Award-winning composer, performer, recording artist, author, visual artist, educator and philosopher who has been a major force on the international musical scene for more than six decades. In recognition of his many contributions to the world of music, he has been named an American Jazz Master for the year 2010 by the National Endowment for the Arts. 

Still very much active as a touring and recording artist, Yusef Lateef is universally acknowledged as one of the great living masters and innovators in the African American tradition of autophysiopsychic music — that which comes from one’s spiritual, physical and emotional self. 

As a virtuoso on a broad spectrum of reed instruments -- tenor saxophone, flute, oboe, bamboo flute, shanai, shofar, argol, sarewa, and taiwan koto — Yusef Lateef has introduced delightful new sounds and blends of tone colors to audiences all over the world, and he has incorporated the sounds of many countries into his own music. As a result, he is considered a pioneer in what is known today as “world music.”

As a composer, Yusef Lateef has compiled a catalogue of works not only for the quartets and quintets he has led, but for symphony and chamber orchestras, stage bands, small ensembles, vocalists, choruses and solo pianists. His extended works have been performed by the WDR (Cologne), NDR (Hamburg), Atlanta, Augusta and Detroit Symphony Orchestras, the Symphony of the New World, Eternal Wind, the GO Organic Orchestra, and the New Century Players from California Insitute of the Arts. In 1987 he won a Grammy Award for his recording of “Yusef Lateef’s Little Symphony,” on which he performed all the parts. His latest extended works include a woodwind quintet, his Symphony No.2, and a concerto for piano and orchestra.

As an educator, Yusef has devoted much of his life to exploring the methodology of autophysiopsychic music in various cultures and passing what he has learned on to new generations of students. He is an emeritus Five Colleges professor at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst, MA, from which he was awarded a Ph.D. in Education in 1975. His doctoral dissertation was entitled “An Overview of Western and Islamic Education.” In 2007 he was named University of Massachusetts’ “Artist of the Year.”

As an author, Yusef Lateef has published two novellas, “A Night in the Garden of Love” and “Another Avenue;” two collections of short stories, “Spheres” and “Rain Shapes;” and his autobiography, “The Gentle Giant,” written in collaboration with Herb Boyd. In recent years he has also exhibited his paintings at various art galleries. 

Yusef A. Lateef was born William Emanuel Huddleston on October 9, 1920 in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and moved with his family to Detroit in 1925. In Detroit’s fertile musical environment, Yusef soon established long-standing friendships with such masters of American music as Milt Jackson, Tommy Flanagan, Barry Harris, Paul Chambers, Donald Byrd, the Jones brothers (Hank, Thad and Elvin), Curtis Fuller, Kenny Burrell, Lucky Thompson and Matthew Rucker. He was already proficient on tenor saxophone while in high school, and at the age of 18 began touring professionally with swing bands led by Hartley Toots, Hot Lips Page, Roy Eldridge, Herbie Fields and eventually Lucky Millender. In 1949 he was invited to join the Dizzy Gillespie Orchestra. 

In 1950 he returned to Detroit, where he began to study composition and flute at Wayne State University, receiving his early training in flute from Larry Teal. He also converted to Islam in the Ahmadiyya movement and took the name Yusef Lateef. From 1955–1959 he led a quintet including Curtis Fuller, Hugh Lawson, Louis Hayes and Ernie Farrell. In 1958 he began studying oboe with Ronald Odemark of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. 

Returning to New York in 1960, Yusef undertook further studies in flute with Harold Jones and John Wummer at the Manhattan School of Music, from which he received his Bachelor’s Degree in Music in 1969 and his Master’s Degree in Music Education in 1970. Later, as a member of the school’s theory department in 1971, he taught courses in autophysiopsychic music. From 1972–1976, he was an associate professor of music at the Borough of Manhattan Community College.

Yusef first began recording under his own name in 1956 for Savoy Records, and has since made more than 100 recordings as a leader for the Savoy, Prestige, Contemporary, Impulse, Atlantic and YAL labels. His early recordings of such songs as “Love Theme from Spartacus” and “Morning” continue to receive extensive airplay even today. He also toured and recorded with the ensembles of Charles Mingus, Cannonball Adderley, Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie and Babatunde Olatunji in the 1960s. 

As an instrumentalist with his own ensemble, Yusef Lateef has performed extensively in concert halls and at colleges and music festivals throughout the United States, Europe, the Middle East, Russia, Japan and Africa, often conducting master classes and symposia in conjunction with his performances. Dating from the release of the double CD “Influence” with the Belmondo Brothers in 2005, his engagements at international music festivals have increased significantly. Over the years his touring ensembles have included such master musicians as Barry Harris, Kenny Barron, Hugh Lawson, Albert Heath, Roy Brooks, Ernie Farrell, Cecil McBee, Bob Cunningham, Adam Rudolph, Charles Moore, Ralph Jones and Frederico Ramos as well as the Lionel and St├ęphane Belmondo. 

Dr. Lateef’s first major work for large orchestra was his Blues Suite, also known as “Suite 16,” premiered in 1969 by the Augusta, GA Symphony Orchestra, performed in 1970 with his hometown Detroit Symphony Orchestra at the Meadowbrook Music Festival, and recorded by the WDR Orchestra in Cologne. In 1974 the NDR Radio Orchestra of Hamburg commissioned him to compose and perform the tone poem “Lalit,” and he later premiered and recorded his Symphony No.1 (Tahira) with the same orchestra. 

From August 1981 until August 1985, Dr. Lateef was a senior research Fellow at the Center for Nigerian Cultural Studies at Ahmadu Bello University in Zaria, Nigeria, where he did research into the Fulani flute. Sarewa is the generic name for the Fulani flute.

In 1992 Yusef Lateef formed his own label, YAL Records, to record and distribute his works and those of other artists including the Eternal Wind Quintet. One of his first recordings on the label, co-composed with percussionist Adam Rudolph, was “The World at Peace,” an extended suite requiring 12 musicians including Eternal Wind, which has received repeated performances throughout the United States.

In 1993 the WDR Orchestra producer Ulrich Kurtz commissioned Yusef Lateef’s most ambitious work to date, The African American Epic Suite, a four-movement work for quintet and orchestra representing 400 years of slavery and disfranchisement of African Americans in America. David de Villiers conducted the premiere performance and recording with the WDR Orchestra. The suite has also been performed by the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra under Yoel Levi as a centerpiece of the National Black Arts Festival in 1998 and by the Detroit Symphony Orchestra under Thomas Wilkins in 2001. 

Through his publishing company, Fana Music, Yusef Lateef has contributed extensively to the lexicon of performance and improvisational methodology with such works as “Yusef Lateef’s Flute Book of the Blues,” “A Repository of Melodic Scales and Patterns,” and “123 Duets for Treble Clef Instruments.” Fana has also published numerous works for chamber ensembles, stage bands, duos and wind ensemble or symphony orchestra.

***

Yusef Lateef - obituary

Yusef Lateef was a multi-instrumentalist jazz musician who converted to Islam and pioneered the performance of 'world music’

Yusef Lateef
Yusef Lateef Photo: WIREIMAGE/FRANK MULLEN


Yusef Lateef, who has died aged 93, was a jazz musician who pioneered the performance of “world music” long before the term came into general use. A convert to Islam, he declared: “My music is, like my religion, supposed to take you from this life into the next.”
A man of many talents and a born scholar, Yusef Lateef was born William Emanuel Huddleston (some sources give the surname as Evans) on October 9 1920, in Chattanooga, Tennessee. His mother played the piano in church and he remembered his father as having “a beautiful singing voice”. In 1925 his family moved to Detroit, where the boy grew up amid the sounds of the burgeoning swing era. He made up his mind to be a musician at the age of 12, and finally acquired a saxophone, with his father’s help, at 18.
In his twenties, Lateef played with several well-known bands of the period, including those of Lucky Millinder, Roy Eldridge, Hot Lips Page and Ernie Fields. In 1949 he was touring in California with Dizzy Gillespie’s orchestra when he received news that his wife was ill. Hurrying home to Detroit, he was forced to take a job in the Chrysler factory, there being no regular musical work available.
Yusef Lateef on sax (WIREIMAGE/FRANK MULLEN)
This experience affected him deeply. In a search for spiritual development, he had recently embraced Islam, which stresses the obligation to care for one’s family. The life of a jobbing musician would not provide this. The answer, he concluded, lay in getting himself an education.
He enrolled at Wayne State University to study composition and flute. At the same time his professional fortunes improved, and he was soon leading his own quintet in clubs around the Detroit area. He made his recording debut as a leader in 1956, for the Savoy label.
The flute was not widely used in jazz at the time and, together with the growing Eastern influences in Lateef’s music, its novelty proved popular with record buyers. That album, Jazz for the Thinker, did so well that 1957 saw the release of seven Yusef Lateef albums (four on Savoy, one each on Verve, Prestige and New Jazz).
In 1960 Lateef moved to New York, where he worked briefly with Charles Mingus’s band, as well as leading quartets and quintets of his own. He was now playing — along with the tenor saxophone and flute — the oboe, bassoon and a range of Eastern wind instruments, including the shanai, the arghul and the algaita, plus a collection of Chinese wooden flutes, bells and gongs. A single from his 1961 album Eastern Sounds, a version of the “Love Theme” from the film Spartacus, reached the top of the jazz charts.

He continued to work occasionally under the leadership of other musicians, notably the saxophonist Cannonball Adderley. He can be seen and heard playing with Adderley’s sextet in a recording from the television show Jazz Scene USA (1962).
Lateef resumed his studies at the Manhattan School of Music, gaining his performer’s degree on flute in 1969 and a Master’s degree in Music Education in 1970. He then began teaching at the School, running classes in improvisation, which he called “autophysiopsychic music”.
In 1975 Lateef was awarded a Doctorate in Education by the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, for a dissertation on Western and Islamic education. Between 1981 and 1985 he was a senior research fellow at the University of Ahmadubelo, Nigeria. On his return he took up a teaching post at The University of Massachusetts, to which he remained attached for the rest of his life.
Although he continued to perform professionally almost until the end (his last tour was in the summer this year), Lateef gave up playing in nightclubs in 1981, because their atmosphere had become obnoxious to him. In later years his gradual move from hearty blues-flavoured playing to a more meditative, introspective style was not always well received by audiences and critics.
During his career he recorded more than 100 albums. From 1992 these were made for his own label, YAL Records. He received a Grammy Award in 1987, for the album Yusef Lateef’s Little Symphony.
In addition to his musical and academic activities, Lateef published several books of short stories and novellas; towards the end of his life he was a keen painter, specialising in studies of trees. He twice made the Hajj to Mecca.
Yusef Lateef is survived by his second wife and a son. His first wife and two children predeceased him.

***

Yusef Lateef was a jazz musician who pioneered the performance of “world music” long before the term came into general use. A convert to Islam, he declared: “My music is, like my religion, supposed to take you from this life into the next.”
A man of many talents and a born scholar, Yusef Lateef was born William Emanuel Huddleston (some sources give the surname as Evans) on October 9 1920, in Chattanooga, Tennessee. His mother played the piano in church and he remembered his father as having “a beautiful singing voice”. In 1925 his family moved to Detroit, where the boy grew up amid the sounds of the burgeoning swing era. He made up his mind to be a musician at the age of 12, and finally acquired a saxophone, with his father’s help, at 18.


In his twenties, Lateef played with several well-known bands of the period, including those of Lucky Millinder, Roy Eldridge, Hot Lips Page and Ernie Fields. In 1949 he was touring in California with Dizzy Gillespie’s orchestra when he received news that his wife was ill. Hurrying home to Detroit, he was forced to take a job in the Chrysler factory, there being no regular musical work available.

This experience affected him deeply. In a search for spiritual development, he had recently embraced Islam, which stresses the obligation to care for one’s family. The life of a jobbing musician would not provide this. The answer, he concluded, lay in getting himself an education.
He enrolled at Wayne State University to study composition and flute. At the same time his professional fortunes improved, and he was soon leading his own quintet in clubs around the Detroit area. He made his recording debut as a leader in 1956, for the Savoy label.
The flute was not widely used in jazz at the time and, together with the growing Eastern influences in Lateef’s music, its novelty proved popular with record buyers. That album, Jazz for the Thinker, did so well that 1957 saw the release of seven Yusef Lateef albums (four on Savoy, one each on Verve, Prestige and New Jazz).
In 1960 Lateef moved to New York, where he worked briefly with Charles Mingus’s band, as well as leading quartets and quintets of his own. He was now playing — along with the tenor saxophone and flute — the oboeHe continued to work occasionally under the leadership of other musicians, notably the saxophonist Cannonball Adderley. He can be seen and heard playing with Adderley’s sextet in a recording from the television show Jazz Scene USA (1962).
Lateef resumed his studies at the Manhattan School of Music, gaining his performer’s degree on flute in 1969 and a Master’s degree in Music Education in 1970. He then began teaching at the School, running classes in improvisation, which he called “autophysiopsychic music”.
In 1975 Lateef was awarded a Doctorate in Education by the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, for a dissertation on Western and Islamic education. Between 1981 and 1985 he was a senior research fellow at the University of Ahmadubelo, Nigeria. On his return he took up a teaching post at The University of Massachusetts, to which he remained attached for the rest of his life.
Although he continued to perform professionally almost until the end (his last tour was in the summer this year), Lateef gave up playing in nightclubs in 1981, because their atmosphere had become obnoxious to him. In later years his gradual move from hearty blues-flavoured playing to a more meditative, introspective style was not always well received by audiences and critics.
During his career he recorded more than 100 albums. From 1992 these were made for his own label, YAL Records. He received a Grammy Award in 1987, for the album Yusef Lateef’s Little Symphony.
In addition to his musical and academic activities, Lateef published several books of short stories and novellas; towards the end of his life he was a keen painter, specialising in studies of trees. He twice made the Hajj to Mecca.
Yusef Lateef is survived by his second wife and a son. His first wife and two children predeceased him.

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