Yusef Lateef

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{accordion mode=manually} YUSEF LATEEF, ADAM RUDOLPH: The World at Peace (YAL/Meta) 
:: 

 From its introductory series of heaving, dissonant pairs to its final lonely rounds 

of flute, the 12-musician, 104-minute The World at Peace reveals over and over 

again the complexities of its title. A glance at any newspaper suggests that the 

idea of global entente could only be ironic -- but everything is relative, isn't it? 

This work's uneasy alliances do reflect reality. And a world at peace can also be 

a vision, a prayer. 

 

Yusef Lateef is in the most ambitious period of a career that has progressed from 

'40s swing and bop through an examination of various world musics, in the latter 

of which L.A. percussionist Adam Rudolph has been a crucial ally for the past 

several years. The two collaborated on the disturbing orchestral African- 

American Epic Suite (recorded in 1993), and also on The World at Peace, which 

was realized live for the present double CD at Culver City's Jazz Bakery in 1995 

and will receive performances in Washington, D.C., and New York this October. 

Peace links intercontinental traditional musics with modern compositional 

techniques for an experience that can draw you in and take you outside yourself. 

 

Where it takes you is where you are: a world seething with potential for 

advancement or destruction, whose opposing forces seem for the moment 

balanced. You will hear Japanese arpeggios from Susan Allen's harp, jazzy 

African runs from David Johnson's marimba and vibes, insistent beats from 

Rudolph's and Jose Luis Perez's collection of drums -- all frequently united with 

washes of acrid European chords from various combinations of Marcie Brown's 

cello, Jeff Gauthier's violin and Bill Roper's tuba, while Lateef grieves or hoots on 

tenor or flute. Despite all the activity, the overall feeling is one of stasis, with 

repeating patterns achieving a kind of harmony (as they do in geopolitical 

relations) more through persistent coexistence than through any intrinsic 

sympathy. 

 

It can be frustrating, this lack of movement. But at least it's not Armageddon. And 

while you wait for the boulder to tip, the ceaseless sounds of your neighbors' 

voices can begin to sound almost reassuring -- when fine art conveys them.  

 

Greg Burk, LA Weekly, 1996 

|||| World Premiere of Yusef Lateef's String Quartet No. 1 :: 

Musical America, February 2, 2005 

 

(LOS ANGELES, FEB. 2, 2005) -- For more than six decades, the prolific 

Grammy Award-winning composer and woodwind virtuoso Yusef Lateef has 

created numerous works not only for the quartets and quintets he has led, but for 

other small ensembles, symphony and chamber orchestras, stage bands, 

vocalists, choruses and solo pianists.  

 

This Friday, February 4 at 8:30 pm in REDCAT, the Roy and Edna Disney/Cal 

Arts Theater in the Walt Disney Concert Hall Complex in downtown Los Angeles, 

he breaks new ground in yet another genre as his String Quartet No. 1 

(Bismilah), completed in 2003, receives its world premiere.  

 

The String Quartet No. 1 will be performed by members of the California Institute 

for the Arts New Century Players at The Creative Music Festival: Robin Lorentz 

and Johnny Chang, violins; Mark Menzies, viola; and Erika Duke-Kirkpatrick, 

cello. Two other string quartets will also be performed: “Necronomicon” by John 

Zorn, and “Black Angels (Images I): Thirteen Images from the Dark Land” by 

George Crumb. 

 

The concert is a co-presentation of REDCAT and the Los Angeles Music Studio, 

and is funded in part through Meet The Composer’s Creative Connections 

Program with the support of the ASCAP Foundation, Copland Fund, Ford 

Foundation, Virgil Thomson Foundation, and the National Endowment for the 

Arts.  

 

Yusef Lateef will be in attendance at the REDCAT event, but will not perform. At 

7:00 pm Friday, he will present a pre-concert talk including audience Q&A. He 

will also conduct master classes at Cal Arts on Thursday and Friday. 

 

“I call my String Quartet No. 1 ‘Bismilah,’ which means ‘In the Name of God,’” 

said Yusef Lateef. “It is related to the feeling that I try to make happen in the 

listener’s heart.” [A poem by Dr. Lateef on this subject is below.] 

 

“Yusef Lateef is a national treasure,” said Nicholas Chase, director of Los 

Angeles Music Studio. “He has created a highly developed and specific music 

language, the use of which is absolutely unique to him. It is a privilege for us to 

be involved in the premiere his String Quartet No. 1 and to help share his 

knowledge with students at Cal Arts.” 

 

“Yusef Lateef’s music is brilliant in the complexity of its rhythms,” said Wadada 

Leo Smith, curator of the Creative Music Festival at Cal Arts, “and in the way 

they’re mixed in with his melodies and his sonic structures.” 

 

WHEN by Yusef Lateef 

 

When our tears begin to flow in the wrinkled crevasses of our faces and we are 

no longer thankful for what we have been given, WE WILL HAVE GOD TO CALL 

ON. 

 

When we no longer recognize the beauty of sunrise, twilight and sunset and our 

sleep is no longer peaceful, WE WILL HAVE GOD TO CALL ON. 

 

When we no longer hear sounds of peace, love and kindness in our hearts, and 

our eyes fail to see the beauty of God’s creation, WE WILL HAVE GOD TO CALL 

ON. 

 

When we no longer enjoy seeing the ballet of the leaves, and feeling the gentle 

touch of the wind, rain and snow, WE WILL HAVE GOD TO CALL ON. 

 

When are hearts are not strangers to the truth, and we remain humble, Then, we 

still have God to call on. 

 

 

|||| Yusef Lateef Publishes Autobiography, Debuts with Jazz at Lincoln Center  

 :: 

 

Musical America, January 10, 2006 

 

(NEW YORK, JAN. 10) -- Yusef Lateef, who celebrated his 85th birthday in 

October 2005, has been a major figure on the international improvisational 

musical scene for more than six decades as a woodwind virtuoso, recording 

artist, educator, and Grammy Award-winning composer. Now he has published 

his autobiography “The Gentle Giant” (Morton Books), in collaboration with the 

prolific journalist, author, activist and teacher Herb Boyd. The book contains an 

extensive discography by David M. Brown, as befitting an artist who is heard on 

more than 95 recordings. 

 

Following his debut with the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra at Rose Hall January 

12-14, Yusef Lateef will autograph copies of “The Gentle Giant” at the Lincoln 

Center Library.  

 

With the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra under Wynton Marsalis, Yusef Lateef will 

be heard on oboe, tenor saxophone, flute and bamboo flute in his composition 

“Morning Trilogy” on the program “Detroit: Motor City Jazz.” “Morning Trilogy,” 

originally recorded by Lateef with a sextet for Savoy Records in 1957, has been 

re-orchestrated for the 17-member LCJO. Works by fellow Detroiters trombonist 

Curtis Fuller (also heard on the original recording of “Morning Trilogy”), bassist 

Ron Carter, alto saxophonist Charles McPherson and trumpeter Marcus 

Belgrave will also be performed. 

 

“Yusef Lateef has been a beacon of inspiration to the music world for many 

years,” says eminent composer and tenor saxophonist Sonny Rollins. “A devout 

Muslim, Yusef is beloved by Christians, Jews, Buddhists, Hindus, and people of 

every stripe all over the world. He has had an enormous spiritual impact on all of 

us and has always created great music.” 

 

With the help of Herb Boyd, Yusef Lateef delves deep into his long and fruitful 

life, exploring the life of a working musician like few other books have done 

before. Lateef is an artist who has always pushed his achievements to the limits, 

always daring to go further, using little-known instruments from other lands, 

combining diverse musical elements, and always creating something new. He is 

one of the most respected musicians from this or any other era, and his 

autobiography gives the reader an opportunity to examine in all its detail what it’s 

like to be a musician. 

 

“The Dogon people of Mali have a word which describes the inner spirit of a 

person expressed through the voice of their musical instrument,” notes the 

percussionist Adam Rudolph, longtime Yusef Lateef collaborator. “This 

extraordinary musician and human being has been sharing his music with us for 

over six decades. When we hear Yusef play, we hear his life story. Now we have 

an opportunity to read his life story. He is the prototype of the modern 

Renaissance artist.” 

 “The Gentle Giant” chronicles Yusef Lateef’s journey from his birthplace of 

Chattanooga, TN, to his elementary and high school years in the fertile musical 

and volatile social climate of Detroit. There he quickly emerged as a standout 

musician, and began his professional career at the age of 18 as a tenor 

saxophonist with road bands in the waning days of the swing era. Back in Detroit, 

he worked day jobs in the automotive and other industries while pursuing a 

career as a bandleader, composer, and recording artist. He converted to the 

Ahmadiyya movement of the Islamic religion, and also embarked on a lifelong 

quest for knowledge in music, visual art, religion, sociology, anthropology, 

history, mathematics, and numerous other subjects. 

 

Having already added flute and oboe to his arsenal, Yusef Lateef embraced the 

study of scales, modes and reed instruments from various cultures, including 

Africa, the Middle East, India and East Asia. His ability to create so many 

different musical colors added a distinctive touch to his compositions and 

performances, brought him to prominence in world music circles, and led to 

extensive travels abroad, including a four-year residency in Nigeria.  

 

As he earned masters and doctoral degrees, Yusef Lateef began to spend as 

much time teaching as performing. He has influenced generations of musicians 

as a teacher of composition, woodwind performance, and improvisational 

techniques. He has also ventured far and wide as a composer, writing not only 

for the quartets and quintets he has led, but for other small ensembles, 

symphony and chamber orchestras, string quartets, stage bands, vocalists, 

choruses and solo pianists.  

 

Further information on “The Gentle Giant:” www.robmorton.com. 

  

|||| YUSEF LATEEF: The African-American Epic Suite  ::

From '40s beginnings as a bebop saxophonist and flutist through years of 

experimentation with ethnic instruments and synthesis of world musics, Yusef 

Lateef has blazed a fearsome path. Lateef's quintet and the Cologne Radio 

Orchestra recorded his capstone African-American Epic Suite in 1993, and of 

course, since he's a veteran American jazz artist, he had to wait till now for it to 

score a U.S. distributor. Now that you can get it, don't miss it; this one lines up 

with the most ambitious orchestrated/improvised works of Duke Ellington, 

Charles Mingus, Ornette Coleman and John Carter. 

 

Despite its musical sophistication and complexity, the suite's wordless narrative 

is as clear as a kick in the shin. The quintet (Lateef, Adam Rudolph, Ralph 

Jones, Federico Ramos and Charles Moore), on a variety of reeds, guitars and 

percussion instruments, portrays the captured Africans. The orchestra embodies 

Euro/American enterprise; its first creeping sustain behind drum/flute 

ramble/whoop is as simple as it is ominous, and thereafter Lateef makes it serve 

a multiplicity of functions: smothering oppressor, sobbing rapist, besmeared 

idealist, compromised collaborator. The most wrenching moments are in the 

second movement, "Transmutation," in which tortured sax shrieks and 

melancholy strolling guitar stand in complementary relief against a sinister waltz 

and exhausted string dissonance. You are left with no doubt: a long war is being 

waged, and there can be no victor. The weary heaves and exhalations of the 

third movement break down at last into a charred lyricism. 

 

It isn't exactly fun, but it's tremendously involving. Up until the last movement, 

that is: where previously the lines have been clean and commanding, now things 

get disjointed. A fist thrusts up out of a crowd and subsides. There's a ripple of 

unity, then dissolution. There's no focus; has the composer lost his conviction? 

That's when the titles finally come in handy. This last section, ending with a stark, 

attenuated sigh, is called "Freedom." And even if it's not this fine album's best 

music, its very ambivalence makes it the truest part of all.  

 

Greg Burk, LA Weekly, 1997  

|||| Yusef Lateef is University of Massachusetts' 'Artist of the Year'  ::

Musical America, February 2, 2007 

 

Amherst, MA., February 2, 2007 – Grammy Award winning composer, reed 

virtuoso, author and educator Yusef Lateef has been named "Artist of the Year" 

by the University of Massachusetts in recognition of his many contributions to the 

University over the past 35 years. 

 

Dr. Lateef, an emeritus professor in the University's Five Colleges, will be 

presented with the award on Saturday, February 3 at the annual fundraising gala 

for the University’s Fine Arts Center. He began his association with the university 

in 1972 and completed his doctorate in education there in 1975. He later taught 

at the "Jazz in July" workshops and taught courses in theory, composition, and 

improvisation in the Five Colleges from the mid-80s through 2002. 

 

"It has been a wonderful opportunity for us to have Yusef Lateef as part of our 

community," said Dr. Frederick C. Tillis, a noted composer, poet and saxophonist 

who headed the University’s Fine Arts Center for 22 years. He also served as 

professor in the University’s department of music and dance and as director of 

the "Jazz in July" program. 

 

"Yusef has always had a unique voice as a performer, and it was rewarding to 

observe firsthand how much of his personality is reflected in his music," added 

Dr. Tillis. "Likewise, as a teacher, his approach was not to impose rigid concepts, 

but to encourage and draw out the individuality of thought from each of his 

students. His openness to diversity was a welcome experience, and his students 

treasure the influence he has had on them, not only as musicians but as 

individuals." 

 

While he celebrated his 86th birthday this past October 9, Yusef Lateef is coming 

off the busiest year of his career, launched by the double-CD release "Influence" 

on B-flat Records in which he collaborated with French composers, arrangers 

and bandleaders Lionel and Stéphane Belmondo (tenor saxophone and trumpet 

respectively). "Influence" showcases a 13-piece orchestra in Belmondo 

compositions featuring Yusef Lateef as well as their arrangements of his 

compositions from the late ‘60s and early ‘70s. 

 

While "Influence" has not yet been released in the United States, the recording 

created an immediate resurgence of interest in Lateef’s work overseas. As a 

result, he made three European tours with the Belmondo Brothers and played a 

number of North American music festivals. He also made his debut with Jazz at 

Lincoln Center in a Detroit-themed program, and published his autobiography 

"The Gentle Giant" with Herb Boyd. 

 

While retired from classroom teaching, Yusef Lateef remains as busy as ever. He 

is already scheduled for another European tour in 2007 and is at work on a 

second symphony as well as various other compositions.  

        {/accordion}

 

“Nobody should have been surprised that his landscape for improvisation remained rooted in a pan-Asian, Middle Eastern and African sound world of earthy rhythm, exotic texture and open form. This is the music that Lateef -- whose nascent experiments with non-Western ideas came 50 years ago -- has been committed to for a long time. Still, he did play the blues, the 12-bar kind. In the middle of his set … he picked up his oboe and, with the rhythm section laying down traditional swing in a slow walking tempo, blew several spare choruses pregnant with plangent expression and bent pitch. The traditional harmonies were enriched by extensions and substitutions that coated the down-home soul with a sophisticated glaze. The jam-packed audience took to it like catnip.” – Mark Stryker, Detroit Free Press