Other Places: Yusef Lateef

At 92, Yusef Lateef continues to earn universal admiration not only for his artistry as a saxophonist, flutist, oboist and composer, but also for the warmth of his personality and eagerness to share his musical knowledge, which is wide and deep. Thanks to Rifftides reader Harris Meyer for alerting Yusef Lateef fluteme—and you— to a recent installment of the radio program American Routes. Lateef told host Nick Spitzer about his career, his music and his philosophy. In his early development as a professional, like scores of other musicians Lateef came under the wing of one of the great teachers in jazz, Dizzy Gillespie. He talked with Spitzer about what he learned from Gillespie, Sonny Stitt and Cannonball Adderley, how he became a leader, and his faith’s influence on his music.

The interview is at the end of a two-hour broadcast of American Routes. The show on New Orleans station WWNO also contains performances by Robert Randolph, Lena Horne, Clifton Chenier and Aaron Neville, among others. It’s a gumbo. To hear the entire program, go here. To listen only to the Lateef segment, click on “Listen To Hour 2” and advance the Routes Radio slider to :38:56. The recording that ends the hour comes from Lateef’s 1961 album Eastern Sounds.

Then come back and watch a grainy kinescope from Japan featuring Lateef on oboe in 1963. His accompanists are the Adderley rhythm section: pianist Joe Zawinul, bassist Sam Jones and drummer Louis Hayes. Cannonball and Nat were off to the side, listening. The sound quality would send Rudy Van Gelder into shock, and the kinescope dies during Jones’s solo, but Lateef makes the clip worth seeing and hearing.

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  1. says

    Thank you for this post, Doug. Just last week I dusted off my copy of the 2-CD Lateef compilation Every Village Has a Song. What a delight it was to hear again. And I was reminded how profoundly his influence is marked on my musical DNA: I studied privately with Bro. Yusef from 1990-91 as an undergrad at UMass-Amherst.

    In many ways, I listen to his recordings and hear two things: beauty and the Blues.


  2. Terence Smith says

    Thanks for highlighting the Japanese kinescope and “American Routes” interview of Yusef Lateef. It seems almost fitting that the deep blues groove created by Lateef, Zawinul, Jones, and Hayes never comes to an end. And in the interview, I am glad I was able to hear Lateef speaking about Lester Young, Sonny Stitt, and Dizzy Gillespie, and to hear some choice moments from “Eastern Sounds”. I bought a tape of that years ago when I noticed that it featured Barry Harris, that other generous master and teacher from Detroit. Of course, they played together many times, but I’ll bet that one is treasured by both Lateef and Harris.