Tag Archives: Japan

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 – April 26

1886 – Ma Rainey born. One of the earliest known American professional blues singers and one of the first generation of such singers to record. she has been  billed as The Mother of the Blues.

She  was known for her very powerful vocal abilities, energetic disposition, majestic phrasing, and a ‘moaning’ style of singing similar to folk tradition, though her powerful voice and disposition are not captured on her recordings (due to her recording exclusively for Paramount, which was known for worse-than-normal recording techniques and among the industry’s poorest shellac quality), the other characteristics are present, and most evident on her early recordings, Bo-weevil Blues and Moonshine Blues. She also recorded with Louis Armstrong.

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1937 – Spanish Civil War: Guernica (or Gernika in Basque), Spain  bombed by German Luftwaffe, causing widespread destruction and civilian deaths – the Basque government reported 1,654 people killed.

The bombing was the subject of a famous anti-war painting by Pablo Picasso. It was depicted by Heinz Kiwitz, a German artist who made a woodcut of it  and later was killed fighting in the International Brigades.

The bombing shocked and inspired many artists: Guernica is also the name of one of the most violent of René Iché sculptures, one of the first electroacoustic music by Patrick Ascione, of a musical composition by René-Louis Baron and a poem by Paul Eluard (Victory of Guernica). There is also a short film from 1950 by Alain Resnais entitled Guernica.

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1938 – Duane Eddy born.  American guitarist. In the late 1950s and early 1960s he had a string of hit records, produced by Lee Hazlewood, which were noted for their characteristically “twangy” sound, including “Rebel Rouser”, “Peter Gunn”, and “Because They’re Young“. He had sold 12 million records by 1963.

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1940 – Giorgio Moroder born. Italian record producer, songwriter and performer.

When in Munich in the 1970s, he started his own record label called Oasis Records, which several years later became a subdivision of Casablanca Records.

 He collaborated with Donna Summer during the  disco era (including “Love to Love You Baby” and “I Feel Love“) and was the founder of the former Musicland Studios in Munich, which was used as a recording studio by artists including the Electric Light Orchestra, Led Zeppelin, Queen and Elton John.

Moroder also produced a number of electronic disco hits for The Three Degrees, two albums for Sparks, songs for performers including David Bowie, Irene Cara, Madleen Kane, Melissa Manchester, Blondie, Japan, and France Joli.

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1970 – Gypsy Rose Lee died.  American burlesque entertainer famous for her striptease act.

She was also an actress, author, and playwright whose 1957 memoir was made into the stage musical and film Gypsy.

Trying to describe what Gypsy was (a “high-class” stripper), H. L. Mencken coined the term ecdysiast.  Her style of intellectual recitation while stripping was spoofed in the number “Zip!” from Rodgers and Hart‘s Pal Joey, a play in which her sister June appeared.

Gypsy can be seen performing an abbreviated version of her act (intellectual recitation and all) in the 1943 film Stage Door Canteen.

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Almanac – February 23

1723 – Richard Price born. British moral philosopher and preacher in the tradition of English Dissenters, and a political pamphleteer, active in radical, republican, and liberal causes such as the American Revolution.

He fostered connections between a large number of people, including writers of the Constitution of the United States. He spent most of his adult life as minister of Newington Green Unitarian Church, where possibly the congregant he most influenced was early feminist Mary Wollstonecraft, who extended his ideas on the egalitarianism inherent in the spirit of the French Revolution to encompass women’s rights as well.

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1821 – John Keats died. English Romantic poet. He was one of the main figures of the second generation of romantic poets along with Lord Byron and Percy Bysshe Shelley, despite his work only having been in publication for four years before his death.

Although his poems were not generally well-received by critics during his life, his reputation grew after his death, so that by the end of the 19th century he had become one of the most beloved of all English poets.

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1958 – David Sylvian born. English singer-songwriter and musician who came to prominence in the late 1970s as the lead vocalist and main songwriter in the group Japan.

His subsequent solo work is described  as “a far-ranging and esoteric career that encompassed not only solo projects but also a series of fascinating collaborative efforts.”

Sylvian’s solo work has been influenced by a variety of musical styles and genres, including jazz, avant-garde, ambient, electronic, and progressive rock.

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Almanac – December 16

1653 –  Oliver Cromwell became Lord Protector of the Commonwealth of England, Scotland and Ireland.

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1707 – Last recorded eruption of Mount Fuji,  Japan.

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1935 – Thelma Todd died. American actress. Appearing in about 120 pictures between 1926 and 1935, she is best remembered for her comedic roles in films like Marx Brothers’ Monkey Business and Horse Feathers.

On the morning of Monday, December 16, 1935, Thelma Todd was found dead in her car inside the garage of Jewel Carmen, a former actress and former wife of Todd’s lover and business partner, Roland West. Carmen’s house was approximately a block from the topmost side of Todd’s restaurant.

Her death was determined to have been caused by carbon monoxide poisoning. The detectives of the LAPD concluded at first that Todd’s death was accidental, the result of her either warming up the car to drive it or using the heater to keep herself warm.

Other evidence, however, pointed to foul play. Blood from a wound was found on her face and dress, leading some to believe that she was knocked unconscious and placed in the car so that she would succumb to carbon monoxide poisoning.

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1989 – Lee Van Cleef died. American film actor who appeared mostly in Westerns and action pictures. His sharp features and piercing eyes led to his being cast as a villain in scores of films, such as Kansas City Confidential, High Noon, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, For A Few dollars More and The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.

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Almanac – September 20

1498 – The 1498 Meiō Nankaidō earthquake generated a tsunami that washed away the building housing the statue of the Great Buddha at Kōtoku-in in Kamakura, Kanagawa, Japan. Ever since,  the Buddha has sat in the open air.

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1885 – Jelly Roll Morton born.  American ragtime and early jazz pianist, bandleader and composer.

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1933 – Annie Besant died. British socialist, Theosophist, women’s rights activist, writer and orator and supporter of Irish and Indian self rule.

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Almanac – August 9

1945 – Nagasaki, Japan was devastated when an atomic bomb, Fat Man, was dropped by the United States B-29 Bockscar. 39,000 people were killed outright.

1962 – Hermann Hesse died. German-Swiss poet, novelist, and painter. His best-known works include Steppenwolf, Siddhartha, and The Glass Bead Game, each of which explores an individual’s search for authenticity, self-knowledge and spirituality.  He received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1946,

1965 – Singapore was expelled from Malaysia and became the first and only country to date to gain independence unwillingly.

1967 – Joe Orton died.  English playwright and author. His public career was short but prolific, lasting from 1964 until his death. During this brief period he shocked, outraged, and amused audiences with his scandalous black comedies. The adjective Ortonesque is sometimes used to refer to work characterised by a similarly dark yet farcical cynicism.
Orton was murdered by his lover, Kenneth Halliwell, who  bludgeoned him  to death at his home in Islington, London, with nine hammer blows to the head, and then himself committed suicide with an overdose of 22 Nembutal tablets washed down with the juice from canned grapefruit.

1969 – Followers of Charles Manson murdered  pregnant actress Sharon Tate (wife of Roman Polanski), coffee heiress Abigail Folger, Polish actor Wojciech Frykowski, men’s hairstylist Jay Sebring and recent high-school graduate Steven Parent.

1971 –  The British security forces in Northern Ireland  launched  Operation Demetrius. Hundreds of people were arrested and interned, thousands were displaced, and 24 were killed in the violence that followed. Its introduction, and the abuse of those interned, led to numerous protests.

1995 – Jerry Garcia died.  American musician,  best known for his lead guitar work, singing and songwriting with the Grateful Dead.

Mr. Frankenstein

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Almanac – August 6

Hiroshima Day

On this day in 1945, the USA dropped the first atom bomb, on Hiroshima, Japan, via the B-29 bomber Enola Gay.
Approximately 150,000 people were killed or wounded as a result. 75% of the city’s buildings were destroyed or severely damaged.

1806 – Francis II, the last Holy Roman Emperor, abdicated,  ending the Holy Roman Empire.

1874 – Charles Fort born.   American writer and researcher into anomalous phenomena. Today, the terms Fortean and Forteana are used to characterize various such phenomena. Fort’s books sold well and are still in print today.

1890 – William Kemmler, a convicted murderer, became the first person to be executed by electric chair, at Auburn State Prison, New York.

1928 – Andy Warhol born.  American artist who was a leading figure in the visual art movement known as pop art. His works explored the relationship between artistic expression, celebrity culture and advertisement that flourished by the 1960s.  The Andy Warhol Museum in his native city, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, holds an extensive permanent collection of art and archives and is the largest museum in the United States of America dedicated to a single artist.

1962 – Jamaica gained full independence within the British Commonwealth.

1964 – Prometheus, a bristlecone pine and the world’s oldest tree,  was cut down. Growing near the tree line on Wheeler Peak in eastern Nevada, United States, the tree, which was at least 4862 years old and possibly more than 5000 years, was cut down  by a graduate student and United States Forest Service personnel for research purposes, though the people involved did not know of its world-record age before felling. However, the circumstances and decision-making process leading to the felling of the tree remain controversial.

1991 – Tim Berners-Lee released files describing his idea for the World Wide Web. WWW debuts as a publicly available service on the Internet.

Mr. Frankenstein

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