Tag Archives: composer

Yusef Lateef R.I.P.

Yusef Lateef,  Grammy Award-winning multi-instrumentalist, composer and educator who brought the sounds of world music to jazz and became one of the first jazz musicians to convert to the teachings of Islam,  died. He was 93.

 

Lateef initially was best known as a dynamic tenor saxophonist with a big tone and a strong sense of swing, but his persistent creative and intellectual curiosity led him to the discovery of an array of other instruments as well as a fascination with various international forms of music.

He was an early advocate for the flute as a credible jazz voice, and  his performances on the oboe as early as the ’50s and ’60s were definitive – and rarely matched – displays of the instrument’s jazz capabilities.

He searched the globe for more exotic instruments, while mastering, among others, the bamboo flute, the Indian shenai, the Arabic arghul, the Hebrew shofar and the West African Fulani flute.

 

Tall and shaven-headed, his powerful presence offset by a calm demeanor and the quiet, articulate speaking style of a scholar, Lateef combined thoughtfulness and a probing intellectual curiosity with impressive musical skills. Early in his career, he established his role as a pathfinder in blending elements from a multiplicity of different sources.

 

His first recordings under his own leadership, released on the Savoy label in the mid-’50s, already revealed a fascination with unusual instruments: In addition to tenor saxophone and the flute, he also plays the arghul. Several of Lateef’s original compositions on those early albums also integrated rhythms and melodic styles from numerous global musical forms.

 

“In any given composition,” wrote Leonard Feather in The Times in 1975, “there may be long passages that involve classical influences, impressionism, a Middle Eastern flavor, or rhythmic references to Latin America.”

 

Like a number of musicians – from Duke Ellington to his contemporaries, Max Roach and Sonny Rollins – Lateef objected to the use of the word “jazz” to describe his work. He preferred, instead, the phrase, “autophysiopsychic music,” which he defined as “music which comes from one’s physical, mental and spiritual self.”

 

He also acknowledged the importance of the blues, in his music and elsewhere.

 

“The blues,” he said in an NPR interview in 2003, “is a very elegant musical form which has given birth to wonderful compositions. I recognize the blues. In fact, if the African had not been brought to America as a slave, the blues would never have been born.”

 

Lateef’s desire to pursue his own musical path — as a performer, a composer and an educator — led, in 1981, to his refusal to perform in nightclubs. For the next four years, he lived in Nigeria as a senior research fellow at Ahmadu Bello University. Returning to the U.S., he taught at the University of Massachusetts and Amherst College.

 

In the succeeding decades, Lateef performed in concert halls, colleges and music festivals in Japan, Russia, Europe, the Middle East, Africa and the U.S. He often led seminars and master classes outlining his belief in the presence of autophysiopsychic music principals in cultures around the world.

 

“To me,” he told the LA Times in 1989,” it feels as though there’s a kind of aesthetic thread running through the improvisational musics of the world. If you’re alive and your heart is beating, you’ll find it, and that’s what makes the relationship between you and the world.”

 

Yusef Lateef was born William Emanuel Huddleston on April 9, 1920, in Chattanooga, Tenn. When he was 3, he moved to Lorraine, Ohio, with his parents. In 1925 they relocated to Detroit. Music was a constant presence in his early family life.

 

He is survived by his wife, Ayesha Lateef; his son, Yusef Lateef; a granddaughter and great-grandchildren.

Source – LA Time, 24 Dec 2013

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Almanac – May 26

1647 – Alse Young, hanged in Hartford, Connecticut, became the first known  person to be  executed as a witch in the British American colonies.

Very little is recorded of Alse Young; her existence is only known through her reputation as a witch. She is believed to have been the wife of John Young, who bought a small parcel of land in Windsor in 1641, sold it in 1649, and then disappeared from the town records.

There is no further record of Young’s trial or the specifics of the charge, only that Alse Young was a woman. Early historical record hints at the possibility that there may have been some sort of epidemic in the town of Windsor in early 1647.

She had a daughter, Alice Young Beamon, who would be accused of witchcraft in nearby Springfield, Massachusetts, some 30 years later.

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1828 – Celebrated feral child Kaspar Hauser was discovered wandering the streets of Nuremberg.

At first it was assumed that he was raised half-wild in forests, but during conversations with officials, Hauser told a different version of his past life, which he later also wrote down in more detail. According to this story, for as long as he could remember he spent his life totally alone in a darkened cell about two metres long, one metre wide and one and a half high with only a straw bed to sleep on and a horse carved out of wood for a toy.

He claimed that he found bread and water next to his bed each morning. Periodically the water would taste bitter and drinking it would cause him to sleep more heavily than usual. On such occasions, when he awakened, his straw was changed and his hair and nails were cut.

Hauser claimed that the first human being with whom he ever had contact was a mysterious man who visited him not long before his release, always taking great care not to reveal his face to him.

This man, Hauser said, taught him to write his name by leading his hand. After learning to stand and walk, he was brought to Nuremberg. Furthermore, the stranger allegedly taught him to say the phrase “I want to be a cavalryman, as my father was” (in Bavarian dialect), but Hauser claimed that he did not understand what these words meant.

This tale aroused great curiosity and made Hauser an object of international attention. Rumours arose that he was of princely parentage, possibly of Baden origin, but there were also claims that he was an impostor.

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1897 – Dracula,  by  Bram Stoker, was published.

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1916 – Moondog born. Blind American composer, musician, poet and inventor of several musical instruments.
 
Moving to New York as a young man, Moondog made a deliberate decision to make his home on the streets there, where he spent approximately twenty of the thirty years he lived in the city.

Most days he could be found in his chosen part of town wearing clothes he had created based on his own interpretation of the Norse god Odin.[citation needed] Thanks to his unconventional outfits and lifestyle, he was known for much of his life as “The Viking of 6th Avenue”.

Native American music, along with contemporary jazz and classical, mixed with the ambient sounds from his environment (city traffic, ocean waves, babies crying, etc.)  created the foundation of Moondog’s music.

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1926 – Miles Davis born. American jazz musician, trumpeter, bandleader, and composer.

 Widely considered one of the most influential musicians of the 20th century,  Miles Davis was, with his musical groups, at the forefront of several major developments in jazz music, including bebop, cool jazz, hard bop, modal jazz, and jazz fusion.

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Almanac – May 16

1923 – Peter Underwood born.  English author, broadcaster and paranormalist,  a prolific author on books covering ghosts by region of the United Kingdom.

He is a leading expert on Borley Rectory, and  traced and personally interviewed almost every living person who had been connected with what the press had dubbed the ‘most haunted house in England’.

He built up a volume of correspondence with paranormal investigator Harry Price and after Price’s death, he became literary executor of the Harry Price Estate.

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1951 – Jonathan Richman born.  American singer, songwriter and guitarist.
In 1970 he founded The Modern Lovers, an influential proto-punk band. Since the mid-1970s, Richman has worked either solo or with low-key, generally acoustic, backing.

He is known for his wide-eyed, unaffected and childlike outlook, and music that, while rooted in rock and roll, often draws on influences from around the world.

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1953 – Django Reinhardt died. Pioneering virtuoso jazz guitarist and composer, often regarded as one of the greatest guitar players of all time and is the first important European jazz musician who made major contributions to the development of the idiom.

Using only the index and middle fingers of his left hand on his solos (his third and fourth fingers were paralyzed after an injury in a fire), Reinhardt invented an entirely new style of jazz guitar technique (sometimes called ‘hot’ jazz guitar) that has since become a living musical tradition within French gypsy culture.

With violinist Stéphane Grappelli, he co-founded the Quintette du Hot Club de France, described by critic Thom Jurek as “one of the most original bands in the history of recorded jazz.”

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Almanac – May 15

913 – Hatto I, Archbishop of Mainz, died.

One account of his death claimed he was struck by lightning,  another that he was thrown alive by the devil into the crater of Mount Etna.

His memory was long regarded in Saxony with great abhorrence, and stories of cruelty and treachery gathered round his name.

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1718 – James Puckle, a London lawyer, patented the world’s first machine gun.

Puckle demonstrated two versions of the basic design: one, intended for use against Christian enemies, fired conventional round bullets, while the second variant, designed to be used against the Muslim Turks, fired square bullets, which were considered to be more damaging and would, according to its patent, convince the Turks of the “benefits of Christian civilization.”

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1948 – Brian Eno born. English musician, composer, record producer, singer, and visual artist,  one of the principal innovators of ambient music.

He joined  Roxy Music as synthesiser player in the early 1970s, but  soon tired of touring and of conflicts with lead singer Bryan Ferry.

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1956 – Austin Osman Spare died.  English artist and occultist who worked as both a draughtsman and a painter.

 Influenced by symbolism and the artistic decadence of art nouveau, his art was known for its clear use of line, and its depiction of monstrous and sexual imagery.

In an occult capacity, he developed idiosyncratic magical techniques including automatic writing, automatic drawing and sigilization based on his theories of the relationship between the conscious and unconscious self.

Spare’s esoteric legacy was largely maintained by his friend, the Thelemite author Kenneth Grant in the latter part of the 20th century, and his beliefs regarding sigils provided a key influence on the chaos magic movement and Thee Temple ov Psychick Youth.

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Almanac – May 05

1901 – Blind Willie McTell born (probably – the year 1898 is also given).  Piedmont and ragtime blues singer and guitarist.

He played with a fluid, syncopated fingerstyle guitar technique, common among many exponents of Piedmont blues, although, unlike his contemporaries, he came to use twelve-string guitars exclusively.

McTell was also an adept slide guitarist,  and his vocal style, a smooth and often laid-back tenor, differed greatly from many of the harsher voice types employed by Delta bluesmen, such as Charley Patton. McTell embodied a variety of musical styles, including blues, ragtime, religious music and hokum.

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1937 – Delia Derbyshire born.  English musician and composer of electronic music  and musique concrète.

She is best known for her electronic realisation of Ron Grainer‘s theme music to the British science fiction television series Doctor Who and for her work with the BBC Radiophonic Workshop.

When Grainer first heard it, he was so amazed by her rendering of his theme that he asked “Did I really write this?” to which Derbyshire replied “Most of it”. 

Grainer attempted to get her a co-composer credit but the attempt was prevented by the BBC bureaucracy, who then preferred to keep the members of the Workshop anonymous.

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Almanac – April 22

1616 – Miguel de Cervantes died.  Spanish novelist, poet, and playwright.

His magnum opus, Don Quixote, considered to be the first modern European novel,  is a classic of Western literature, and is regarded amongst the best works of fiction ever written.

His influence on the Spanish language has been so great that the language is often called la lengua de Cervantes (“the language of Cervantes“).

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1922 – Charles Mingus born.  American jazz double bassist, composer and bandleader.

Mingus’s compositions retained the hot and soulful feel of hard bop and drew heavily from black gospel music while sometimes drawing on elements of Third Stream, free jazz, and classical music.

Yet Mingus avoided categorization, forging his own brand of music that fused tradition with unique and unexplored realms of jazz.

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1923 – Bettie Page born.  American model who became famous in the 1950s for her pin-up photos. Often referred to as the “Queen of Pinups“, her jet black hair, blue eyes, and trademark bangs have influenced artists for generations.

Page was “Miss January 1955“, one of the earliest Playmates of the Month for Playboy magazine. “I think that she was a remarkable lady, an iconic figure in pop culture who influenced sexuality, taste in fashion, someone who had a tremendous impact on our society,” Playboy founder Hugh Hefner told the Associated Press.

From 1952 through 1957, she posed for photographer Irving Klaw for mail-order photographs with pin-up, bondage or sadomasochistic themes, making her the first famous bondage model.

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2002 – Linda Lovelace died. American pornographic actress who was famous for her performance in the enormously successful 1972 hardcore porn film Deep Throat.

She later denounced her pornography career and became a spokeswoman for the anti-pornography movement.

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Almanac – April 02

742 – Charlemagne born. King of the Franks from 768, the King of Italy from 774, the first Holy Roman Emperor,  called the “Father of Europe” (pater Europae),  his empire united most of Western Europe for the first time since the Roman Empire.

His rule spurred the Carolingian Renaissance, a revival of art, religion, and culture through the medium of the Catholic Church. Through his foreign conquests and internal reforms, Charlemagne encouraged the formation of a common European identity.  Both the French and German monarchies considered their kingdoms to be descendants of Charlemagne’s empire.

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1725 – Giacomo Casanova born.  Italian adventurer and author from the Republic of Venice.

He was, by vocation and avocation, a lawyer, clergyman, military officer, violinist, con man, pimp, gourmand, dancer, businessman, diplomat, spy, politician, medic, mathematician, social philosopher, cabalist, playwright, and writer. He wrote over twenty works, including plays and essays, and many letters. His novel Icosameron is an early work of science fiction.

He has become so famous for his often complicated and elaborate affairs with women that his name is now synonymous with “womanizer“.

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1891 – Max Ernst born. German painter, sculptor, graphic artist, and poet. A prolific artist, Ernst was a primary pioneer of the Dada movement and Surrealism.

Ernst developed a fascination with birds that was prevalent in his work. His alter ego in paintings, which he called Loplop, was a bird. He suggested that this alter-ego was an extension of himself stemming from an early confusion of birds and humans.

 He said that one night when he was young he woke up and found that his beloved bird had died, and a few minutes later his father announced that his sister was born. Loplop often appeared in collages of other artists’ work, such as Loplop presents André Breton.

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1928 – Serge Gainsbourg born. French singer, songwriter, poet, composer, artist, actor and director. Regarded as one of the most important figures in French popular music, he was renowned for his often provocative and scandalous releases, as well as his diverse artistic output, which embodied genres ranging from jazz, chanson, pop and yé-yé, to reggae, funk, rock, electronic and disco music.

Gainsbourg’s extremely varied musical style and individuality make him difficult to categorize. His legacy has been firmly established, and he is often regarded as one of the world’s most influential popular musicians.

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1941 – Dr. Demento born. American radio broadcaster and record collector specializing in novelty songs, comedy, and strange or unusual recordings dating from the early days of phonograph records to the present.

He is credited with introducing new generations of listeners to artists of the early and middle twentieth century whom they may not have otherwise discovered, such as Haywire Mac, Spike Jones, Benny Bell, Yogi Yorgesson, and Tom Lehrer, as well as with bringing parodist “Weird Al” Yankovic to national attention.

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2003 – Edwin Starr died.  American soul music singer. Starr is most famous for his Norman Whitfield produced Motown singles of the 1970s, most notably the number one hit “War”.

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