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 Stéphane 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)