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Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Yusef Lateef - Montreux 1970

Sorry I missed Brother Yusef's birthday... he got ninety 17 days ago (well, make that 18 now that it turned past midnight while I was typing the following).

Lateef was born William Evans Huddleston (no relation to Father Huddleston, I assume) on October 9, 1920 in Chattanooga, TN. His family moved to Detroit in 1925 and that's where he remained rooted for a long time. In the mid and late 50s, he packed his quintet (Wilbur Harden on trumpet or Curtis Fuller on trombone, Hugh Lawson on piano, Ernie Farrow on bass, Louis Hayes or Oliver Jackson on drums) into his car, drove to NYC and recorded some mighty fine albums for Savoy or Prestige, and one for Verve, too. His brand of hardbop belongs to the most exciting committed to record in those years - check out albums like "Yuser's Mood", "Jazz for Thinkers", "Before Dawn", "Other Sounds" or "The Sounds of Yusef Lateef" to hear what I'm talking about.

In earlier years though his career started when - 18 years of age - he started playing professionally and appeared with Hot Lips Page, Roy Eldridge and others, and landed a gig with Dizzy Gillespie's exciting bop band in 1949. The next year, he returned to Detroit and started mingling in one of the finest local jazz scenes in these years of hardbop... Donald Byrd, Tommy Flanagan, Barry Harris, Paul Chambers, the Jones brothers (Hank, Thad and youngster Elvin, whom he'd have on drums on one of his finest hours, "Into Something" from 1961), Curtis Fuller, Kenny Burrell, and Lucky Thompson are just the cream of the crop of Detroit's finest from those heady years. Lateef's masterpiece from these years might well be his Riverside release "Eastern Sounds". The sounds are not "other" any longer, but a direction is given by now... Lateef opened up to oriental and Indian sounds early on, becoming one of the (unacknowledged) pioneers of any kind of world-jazz-fusion.

Lateef also played with Charles Mingus (playing da sh*t out of "Wednesday Night Prayer Meeting" on Ming's great EmArcy album "Pre-Bird") and then joined the band of Cannonball Adderley - enlarged to a sextet on the occasion of Lateef joining in. With little brother Nat Adderley, a youngster from the Austrial alps playing funky piano and going by the name of Joe Zawinul, as well as the seasoned rhythm team and backbone of the band, Sam Jones and Louis Hayes, Lateef was part of the finest band Cannonball ever led. Among the best recordings they left is "Nippon Soul", captured during a series of 1962 concerts in Japan. There's also Lateef's oboe feature on "Trouble in Mind" on the album "Cannonball in Europe" - the meanest oboe playing this side of free jazz!

But Lateef didn't just play tenor sax and oboe. At that time, he was one of the acknowledged masters of the flute - playing in an exciting, non-Western style, chanting and moaning, expanding the common vocabulary of the instrument. He also started playing oriental and far eastern instruments such as the argol/arghul, and he had his band play "exotic" instruments in the fifties already.

In the 60s, Lateef played with Miles Davis, Babatunde Olatunji, and again with Dizzy, and after a series of fine albums on Impulse - including some extraordinary live material captured at Pep's in Philadelphia with Richard Williams and Mike Nock in his quintet - he started recording for Atlantic and his music got more and more eclectic. With new sidemen such as young pianist Kenny Barron (who came from Lateef's former boss Dizzy's band), he recorded a series of concept albums: The Blue, The Diverse YL, YL's Detroit, etc etc. Lateef also wrote works for large bands and orchestras, and founded his own record label, YAL.

His music took another several other turns... he did world music, new age, fusion and CTI-disco sessions, but he remained an imposing, impressive figure. A very deep and soulful person, he was portrayed in Nicolas Humbert & Werner Penzel's film "Brother Yusef", showed in 2005 on the German/French arte TV channel. His playing still gives me chills down the spine and goose bumps all over... a recent excellent release was published in 2005 as well: "Influence", a collaboration with the French brothers Lionel and Stéphane Belmondo and bunch of excellent European musicians.

About a year ago, he was captured (an amateur recording) in concert in Paris, appearing with Archie Shepp and his regular band, as well as Leon Parker on added percussion instruments. And on 22nd of October, he has performed in duo with his longtime collaborator Adam Rudolph in San Francisco's Grace Cathedral.

The most amazing thing is that he's never lost his amazing, huge, rough and earthy, breathy, raspy, gruff, emotional and touching sound on tenor saxophone. Even today, at age 90, he's got a force on his instrument that is very rare.
He will forever remain my favorite among the several Bill Evans' in jazz, that's for sure!

To celebrate Lateef's 90th birthday, here's a set recorded forty years back, at Montreux Jazz Festival. Hope you'll enjoy! And hope this will send some of you down memory lane, and prompt some others to (finally!?) explore and discover some of Lateef's great music!

Yusef Lateef
Montreux Jazz Festival
Montreux (Switzerland), Casino
July 20, 1970

Yusef Lateef - tenor sax, flute, oboe
Barry Harris - piano
Bob Cunningham - bass
Albert "Tootie" Heath - drums

1. Yusef's Mood (Yusef Lateef) 9:54
2. These Foolish Things (Harry Link, Holt Marvell, Jack Strachey) 8:57
3. Soul Flute (6:11)
4. The Road Back (Yusef Lateef) 7:00
5. Stone Henge (Yusef Lateef) 11:50
6. Off Minor (Thelonious Monk) 5:49
7. (blues) (14:26)
8. Vibration (Yusef Lateef) 8:52

TT: 73:04

Sound: A/A-
Lineage: FM? > ? > CDR > EAC > FLAC


ubu said...

FLAC (tagged, I hope, upped this many months back) + info:

gilhodges said...

Love it love it love it! Thank you.

sasha said...

Heavy line-up there!! This gotta be worth hearing..A touching tribute as well..Many thanks.

wightdj said...

Back in June, I was trying to track down info on the YAL recordings. Their website had a phone number which gave a disconnected-number message, but also added a new number for calls. What a surprise when Dr. Lateef answered my second call at his home in Amherst, Mass. He sounded younger than his years, and I was humbled by his willingness to speak with a fan. Thanks for this concert.

Taylor said...

thank you this looks like a great band & thank you and for Marion Brown

Sivad said...

Thank you, Ubu!!

Jazzfly said...

This is just great thank you!!! One question, I've downloaded 5 parts but only have 7 tracks? Vibration is missing?


ubu said...

jazzfly, you seem to be the first having this issue - there are eight tracks in the RAR files, maybe just try and download them again?
This has been downloaded around 100 times now, and I just went to check my RARs!

jazztap said...