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Reviewers: Tony Augarde [Editor], Steve Arloff, Nick Barnard, Pierre Giroux, Don Mather, James Poore, Glyn Pursglove, George Stacy, Bert Thompson, Sam Webster, Jonathan Woolf



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YUSEF LATEEF

Four Classic Albums

AVID JAZZ AMSC 1147

 

 

CD1 Sounds of Lateef

1. Take the “A” train

2. Payful flute

3. Love and humor

4. Buckingham

5. Meditation

The Three Faces of Lateef

6. Goin’ home

7. I’m just a lucky so and so

8. Quarantine

9. From within

10. Salt water blues

11. Lateef minor 7th

12. Adoration

13. Ma-He’s making eyes at me

CD2 Lateef at Cranbrook

1. Morning

2. Brazil

3. Let every soul say Amen

4. Woody n’you

The Centaur and the Phoenix

5. Revelation

6. Apathy

7. Ev’ry day (I fall in love)

8. The Centaur and the Phoenix

9. Iqbal

10. Summer long

11. The Philanthropist

CD1. tracks 1-5: Yusef Lateef (tenor sax plus flute, arghool, tambourine), Wilbur Harden (flugelhorn, balloon), Hugh Lawson (piano, Turkish finger cymbals, Seven-Up bottle, balloon, bells), Ernie Farrow (bass, rabab), Oliver Jackson (drums, Chinese gong, earth board). Rec. Hackensack New Jersey, USA, October 11th 1957.

CD1. tracks 6-13: Yusef Lateef (tenor sax, tracks 6,8,13), oboe (tracks 7&10), flute (tracks 9, 11 & 12), Ron Carter (cello, except tracks 8&13), Hugh Lawson (piano & celeste on track 9), Herman Wright (bass), Lex Humphries (drums & tympany on track 9). Rec. New York, USA, May 9 th 1960

CD2 tracks 1-4: Yusef Lateef (tenor sax, tambourine, flute, arghool), Frank Morelli (baritone sax), Terry Pollard (piano), William Austin (bass, rabab), Frank Gant (drums, gong, finger cymbals). Rec. Live at Cranbrook Academy of Art, Michigan, USA April 9th 1958

tracks 5-11: Yusef Lateef (tenor sax, oboe, flute, arghool), Clark Terry & Richard Williams (trumpets), Curtis Fuller (trombone), Tate Houston (baritone sax), Josea Taylor (bassoon), Joe Zawinul (piano), Ben Tucker (bass), Lex Humphries (drums). Rec. Plaza Sound Studios, New York, USA October 4 th & 6th 1960.

AVID JAZZ AMSC 1147 2 CDs [74:17], [75:16]

Anyone discovering jazz today must at some time surely come upon the jazz of the 1950s which was such an incredibly creative period coming as it did after the Second World War that left swing behind and reached out to find a new and different way of expressing the times. Just a glance at the huge talent that was active creating music in that decade looks like a who’s who of jazz: Dizzy Gillespie, John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Sonny Rollins, Thelonious Monk..., the list is almost endless and the subject of this 4 album two disc set is another of those greats: Yusef Lateef.

As one of the innovators who sought to explore his heritage he carefully and brilliantly incorporated several African ethnic instruments into his music with the result that much of it is quite unique and extremely exciting. Following a wonderfully melodious extended 11 minute version of Take the A train on which he plays flute he continues his superlative flautism with flugelhorn player Wilbur Harden’s Playful flute which uses some interesting instruments, including coin on scraper and even more are in evidence in his Love and Humor which uses balloons and a seven-up bottle in the most musical way and is quite extraordinary. One almost regrets reverting to ‘ordinary jazz’ after those two excursions but it is nice to have Yusef Lateef back on his usual tenor sax in Buckingham and Meditation though in addition to flute he also plays tambourine and the arghool (a double flute that originated in Egypt). His tenor sound is deliriously soporific in tone, especially in Meditation which rounds off the album Sounds of Lateef.

In similar mood and just as beautifully measured is the opening number Goin’ home from his album The three faces of Yusef Lateef which dates from May 9th 1960. Showing his virtuosity Lateef exchanges sax for oboe on I’m just a lucky so and so. Jazz oboe is rare indeed but he plays it on two numbers on this album and flute on three more making the whole a really interesting mixed bag

From within has Yusef Lateef back on flute and it is a perfect number by which to judge his amazing prowess on this instrument. His playing is muscular and unwavering without any lapses in power while his oboe playing is similarly robust and searching and he clearly understood its possibilities as well as its limitations making Salt water blues a fabulous listen. Lateef minor 7th and Adoration are the other two numbers on which he plays his flute, each confirming his versatility on the instrument and the disc ends with him back on sax for Ma-He’s making eyes at me.

Disc two begins with the four tracks from his album Lateef at Cranbrook recorded at a 1958 concert at the seat of learning near Detroit, the first time jazz had ever been heard on campus. Judging by the fact that at this free to enter event there was an overflow crowd of 500 the concert went down a storm. Beginning with a fifteen minute composition Morning has William Austin swapping his bass for a rebab, a spiked stringed instrument that originated in the Middle East and which eventually found its way to Indonesia where it is now an integral part of the gamelan orchestra. The whole piece resonates with eastern sounds for which Lateef was almost uniquely responsible for incorporating into jazz. Swapping this sound for bossa Brazil is a lively though short excursion to South America’s largest country. Let every soul say Amen another Lateef composition is a nice filler before the album’s signing off tune, Woody n’ you which brings Lateef back to familiar ground and his exploration of this Dizzy Gillespie tune which takes over fourteen minutes has some wonderful moments including the rich sound of Frank Morelli’s baritone sax at times duetting with Lateef’s tenor still managing to mix in some eastern sounds.

The last of the four albums to be featured on this 2 disc set is The Centaur and the phoenix, recorded in 1960 which has seven shorter compositions on it but all of them a joy to hear. Lateef’s joyously relaxed but tightly controlled tenor is beautifully evidenced with the first piece, Kenny Barron’s Revelation which is the first number so far to feature any trumpets with not one but two from Clark Terry and Richard Williams as well as Curtis Fuller’s trombone who sneaks in an allusion to the Soviet composer Lev Knipper’s Across the fields. The album’s title track The Centaur and the phoenix is by Charles Mills who studied classical composition with Aaron Copland and Roger Sessions. He used themes from two of his classical works: Crazy horse symphony and Charlie Parker symphony with the half horse half man standing for the Sioux leader and the phoenix, an immortal bird for the immortal Charlie ‘Bird’ Parker. In this interesting and quite complex piece Lateef’s soaring tenor is displayed to its fullest extent driving the whole ensemble and finishing with a real dash.

Iqbal (meaning flourishing and eminent) is Lateef’s daughter’s name and he begins on the arghool, later giving a rich solo on oboe and just before he enters Josea Taylor’s bassoon makes an impressive appearance, another extremely rarely heard instrument in jazz (why?). It is featured again in Summer long a wonderfully dreamy and atmospheric number with Lateef back on flute. The disc ends with The philanthropist in which we have Yusef’s tenor, Curtis Fuller’s trombone, Tate Houston’s baritone sax as well as Josea Taylor’s bassoon, the two aforementioned trumpeters plus Joe Zawinul on piano, Ben Tucker on bass with Les Humphries’ drums in a real ensemble piece that exemplifies the collective perfectly.

When Yusef Lateef died in 2013 at the ripe age of 93 the jazz world lost a true original who’s like we were fortunate indeed to have made his unique contribution to the history of this endlessly fascinating genre of music. This set is a fitting representation of his art and a timely reminder of what we lost with his passing. All the musicians playing with him on these four albums whether mentioned or not were handpicked by a man who knew what sound he wanted and how best to get it. As I listened my mind was doing some mental arithmetical calculations; in the late 1950s/early 1960s four LPs would have cost around £6 ($9) while as with all Avid Jazz albums this digitally re-mastered 2 CD set lasting a total of 149 minutes can be had for £8 ($14); aren’t we lucky! This is a must have and a no brainer at its bargain price.

Steve Arloff



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