Yusef Lateef

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Yusef Lateef (2007)

Yusef Abdul Lateef (* 9. October 1920 as William Emanuel Huddleston in Chattanooga , Tennessee ; † 23. December 2013 in Shutesbury , Massachusetts ) was an American jazz musician . He was a multi-instrumentalist and played tenor saxophone , alto saxophone , flute , oboe and self-made instruments. He was one of the first jazz musicians to expand the jazz horizon with elements of African, Oriental and Far Eastern musical cultures, and who thus contributed to the development of ethno-jazz .

Live and act

Yusef Lateef grew up in Detroit , where his father worked in the auto industry and changed his last name to Evans . At first he wanted to learn the trumpet, but on the intervention of his father he learned the alto saxophone . His childhood friends included Kenny Burrell , Milt Jackson , Tommy Flanagan , Barry Harris , Paul Chambers, and Donald Byrd . From 1940 he played in Amos Woodward's band, which accompanied blues singers, and deepened his musical knowledge at the Detroit Conservatory of Music . He began his professional musical career in 1943 as a tenor saxophonist with Lucky Millinder , Hot Lips Page , Roy Eldridge , with Eugene Wright's Dukes of Swing (1946–1947), with Ernie Fields and finally in 1949/50 with Dizzy Gillespie as William Evans . Gillespie's attempts to turn Afro-Cuban rhythm patterns into melodies sparked his interest in the music of the Middle East. In 1950 he returned to Detroit and studied composition and flute at Wayne State University there . During this time he converted to Ahmadiyya Islam and adopted his Muslim name.

Lateef stayed in Detroit until 1960, where he led the house band of Klein's Show Bar and for a while his own quintet, in which u. a. Wilbur Harden , Bernard McKinney , Hugh Lawson , Terry Pollard , Frank Gant and Oliver Jackson played, and a first album under his own name for Savoy box office (Stable Mates) . In the following years he and his quintet on Morning (1956) and Jazz For Thinkers (1957) made the flute a solo instrument. He also performed with Donald Byrd . He also deepened his skills by taking oboe lessons with Ronald Odemark, oboist of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra .

In 1960 he returned to New York and continued his studies in flute and music education at the Manhattan School of Music . In the early 1960s he worked with Charles Mingus , Miles Davis , Dizzy Gillespie and with Babatunde Olatunji . One of his most important music albums was Eastern Sounds ( Prestige , 1961), which is clearly influenced by Far Eastern influences. Among other things, he plays a Chinese clay flute on this album . Between 1962 and 1964 he was a member of the Cannonball Adderley sextet ; after that he worked again with his own quartet (with Mike Nock, among others ).

From 1964, Lateef devoted himself to academic studies in addition to his band. In 1969, Lateef earned a bachelor's degree in music and a master's degree in music education. In 1975 he completed his dissertation on Western and Islamic Education and became a Doctor of Philosophy . From 1972 to 1976 he taught music at Manhattan Community College. In the 1980s he taught in Nigeria for a few years , then as a professor at the University of Massachusetts and at Amherst College .

Lateef also experimented with other genres of music such as New Age and Third Stream ; nevertheless, his main focus always remained on jazz. His first composition for a larger ensemble was Suite 16 or Blues Suite , which was premiered in 1969 by the Georgia Symphony Orchestra in Augusta, Georgia and played in 1970 by the Detroit Symphony Orchestra at the Meadowbrook Music Festival ; a record was made in 1971 with the WDR Symphony Orchestra Cologne . In 1974 Lateef composed the poem "Lalit" for the NDR Radio Orchestra Hamburg; This year a recording of his Symphony No. was made with this orchestra . 1 . He also worked with a smaller ensemble, with whom u. a. the album Autophysiopsychic was created. In 1987 he received the Grammy Award for best New Age album for his “Yusef Lateef's Little Symphony”, on which he played all the instruments himself . In 1993 Yusef Lateef composed his most ambitious work, "The African American Epic Suite", a four-part work for (jazz) quintet and orchestra in which he addresses 400 years of African American history. The suite was premiered in the same year by the WDR Rundfunkorchester Köln under David de Villiers and was also performed by the Atlanta Symphony and Detroit Symphony Orchestra . In 2000, on the occasion of his 60th stage anniversary, he presented The World at Peace for twelve instrumentalists.

In 1992, Lateef founded his own label, YAL Records , on which he has released almost forty albums under his own name. He also writes the short story "A Night in the Garden of Love" and numerous short stories, which are included in the volumes Spheres and Rain Shapes . He presented his autobiography under the title "The Gentle Giant".

Lateef himself rejected the term "jazz" for his music:

“I make autophysio-psychic music , that is, music that arises from my physical, spiritual, spiritual and intellectual self. Music has to have this balance, otherwise it is not a successful organization of sounds. "

In 2010 Lateef received the NEA Jazz Masters Fellowship . He died at home on the morning of December 23, 2013 of complications from prostate cancer .


According to Wilhelm Liefland , Yusef Lateef succeeded with his flute vibrato "one of the warmest sound formations that jazzers have ever developed." After Martin Kunzler , he is also one of the few jazz musicians who " mastered " the oboe . Even Brian Priestley particularly emphasizes Lateefs flute in its assessment. His inclusion of Far Eastern sounds served as a role model for musicians such as John Coltrane , who repeatedly referred to Lateef's pioneering position in the field of modal jazz. His sound on the tenor saxophone, however, always remained committed to bebop with a strong blues reference. Even if, according to Priestley, some of Lateef's recordings from the 1960s and 1970s come close to the point of banality, his compositional achievements are, however, impressive.

Rolling Stone magazine selected his album Eastern Sounds 2013 in its list The 100 Best Jazz Albums at number 50.


Yusef Lateef

Discography (selected)

  • Jazz Mood (1957)
  • Prayer to the East (1957)
  • Cry! - Tender (1959)
  • The Three Faces of Yusef Lateef (1960)
  • The Centaur and the Phoenix (1960)
  • Lost in Sound (1960)
  • Eastern Sounds (1961)
  • Into Something (1961)
  • Nippon Soul (1963)
  • Live at Pep's (1964)
  • Psychicemotus (1964)
  • The Golden Flute (1966)
  • A Flat, G Flat and C (1966)
  • The Blue Lateef (1968)
  • Yusef Lateef's Detroit (1969)
  • The Diverse Yusef Lateef (1969)
  • Hush 'N' Thunder (1972)
  • The Doctor is In ... And Out (1974)
  • Ten Years Hence (1975)
  • Autophysiopsychic (1977)
  • Yusef Lateef's Little Symphony (1987; Grammy 1988)
  • The African-American Epic Suite (1996)
  • The World at Peace (1997)
  • Like the Dust (1998)
  • Hikama Creativity (ed. 2019)


  • The Gentle Giant: The Autobiography of Yusef Lateef Irvington, NJ: Morton Books 2006 (with Herb Boyd)
  • Hausa Performing Arts and Music Lagos 1987 (with Ziky Kofoworola)
  • The Repository of Scales and Melodic Patterns , Jamey Aebersold Jazz, 1981
  • The Flute Book of Blues Fana Music 1979

Lexigraphic entries

Web links

Commons : Yusef Lateef  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Yusef Lateef, legendary Detroit jazz man, dies at age 93: 'An enormous spirit' ( Memento of the original from December 24, 2013 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was automatically inserted and not yet checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. Detroit Free Press , December 24, 2013 @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot / www.freep.com
  2. ^ A jazz pioneer: Yusef Lateef died , NZZ / dpa of December 26, 2013
  3. a b c d e Kunzler, Jazz-Lexikon . Volume 1, p. 682
  4. ^ Obituary in Epoch Times
  5. ^ A b Carr / Priestley / Fairweather, Jazz Rough Guide , Lateef article.
  6. Rolling Stone: The 100 Best Jazz Albums . Retrieved November 16, 2016.
  7. Jazz pioneer: Mourning for Yusef Lateef , Spiegel Online , December 24, 2013