Tag Archives: world music

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 – March 24

1834 – William Morris born. English textile designer, artist, writer, and libertarian socialist associated with the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood and English Arts and Crafts Movement.

He founded a design firm in partnership with the artist Edward Burne-Jones, and the poet and artist Dante Gabriel Rossetti which profoundly influenced the decoration of churches and houses into the early 20th century.

 As an author, illustrator and medievalist, he helped to establish the modern fantasy genre, and was a direct influence on postwar authors such as J. R. R. Tolkien.

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1897 – Wilhelm Reich born. Austrian psychoanalyst, a member of the second generation of psychoanalysts after Sigmund Freud, and one of the most radical figures in the history of psychiatry.

During the 1968 student uprisings in Paris and Berlin, students scrawled his name on walls and threw copies of his book The Mass Psychology of Fascism at the police.

He moved to New York in 1939, in part to escape the Nazis, and shortly after arriving there coined the term “orgone” – derived from “orgasm” and “organism” – for a cosmic energy he said he had discovered, which he said others referred to as God.

In 1940 he started building orgone accumulators, devices that his patients sat inside to harness the reputed health benefits, leading to newspaper stories about sex boxes that cured cancer.

Following two critical articles about him in The New Republic and Harper’s, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration obtained an injunction against the interstate shipment of orgone accumulators and associated literature, believing they were dealing with a “fraud of the first magnitude.”

Charged with contempt in 1956 for having violated the injunction, Reich was sentenced to two years in prison, and in June and August that year over six tons of his publications were burned by order of the court, one of the most notable examples of censorship in the history of the United States.

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1919 – Lawrence Ferlinghetti born.  American poet, painter, liberal activist, and the co-founder of City Lights Booksellers & Publishers.

Author of poetry, translations, fiction, theatre, art criticism, and film narration, he is best known for A Coney Island of the Mind (1958), a collection of poems that has been translated into nine languages, with sales of over one million copies.

Although in style and theme Ferlinghetti’s own writing is very unlike that of the original NY Beat circle, he had important associations with the Beat writers, who made City Lights Bookstore their headquarters when they were in San Francisco. He has often claimed that he was not a Beat, but a bohemian of an earlier generation.

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1935 – Carol Kaye born.  American musician, best known as one of the most prolific and widely heard bass guitarists in history, playing on an estimated 10,000 recording sessions in a 55-year career.

As a session musician, Kaye was the bassist on many Phil Spector and Brian Wilson productions in the 1960s and 1970s.

She played guitar on Ritchie ValensLa Bamba and is credited with the bass tracks on several Simon & Garfunkel hits and many film scores by Quincy Jones and Lalo Schifrin. One of the most popular albums she contributed to was the Beach Boys Pet Sounds.

She also played on this –

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1938 – Holger Czukay born. German musician, probably best known as a co-founder of the krautrock group Can.

Described as “successfully bridging the gap between pop and the avant-garde,” Czukay is also notable for creating early important examples of ambient music, for exploring “world music” well before the term was coined, and for being a pioneer of sampling.

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1958 – Elvis Presley was drafted into the U.S. Army as a private at Fort Chaffee, near Fort Smith, Arkansas. He announced that he was looking forward to his military stint, saying he did not want to be treated any differently from anyone else: “The Army can do anything it wants with me.

Fellow soldiers have attested to Presley’s wish to be seen as an able, ordinary soldier, despite his fame, and to his generosity. He donated his Army pay to charity, purchased TV sets for the base, and bought an extra set of fatigues for everyone in his outfit.

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