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Sun, 10.10.1920

Dr. Yusef Lateef born

Yusef Lateef

On this date in 1920, Yusef Lateef was born. He is a Black musician specializing in jazz.

He was born William Emanuel Huddleston in Chattanooga, TN, and moved with his family to Detroit in 1925. In Detroit’s fertile musical environment, he soon established long-standing friendships with such masters of American music as Milt Jackson, Tommy Flanagan, Barry Harris, Paul Chambers, Donald Byrd, the Jones brothers (Hank, Thad and Elvin), Kenny Burrell, Lucky Thompson and Matthew Rucker. He was already proficient on tenor saxophone while in high school, and at the age of 18 began touring professionally with swing bands led by Hartley Toots, Hot Lips Page, Roy Eldridge, Herbie Fields and eventually Lucky Millender. In 1949 he was invited to perform with the Dizzy Gillespie Orchestra.

In 1950, he returned to Detroit and to enrolled in the Wayne State University’s Music Department studying composition and flute. While at Wayne State, he converted to Islam and changed his name to Yusef Lateef.

He was exploring Afro-Asian musical styles as early as the 1950s, with recordings such as "Prayer to the East," and "Eastern Sounds and Other Sounds." In 1960 he returned to New York and enrolled in the Manhattan School of Music to further his studies in flute and music education. In the 1960s and '70s, Lateef worked with Cannonball Adderley, Charles Mingus, and Babatunde Olatunji.

In 1975 he was awarded a Ph.D. in Education from University of Massachusetts in Amherst, MA, and he continues to be a professor there.

His most famous recordings were on the Impulse! and Atlantic labels, where he released "Jazz 'Round The World," "The Gentle Giant," and "Hush 'N' Thunder" which held some of his best in mainstream and Negro spiritual-derived compositions. Lateef has worked with percussionist Adam Rudolph, saxophonists Ricky Ford and Rene McLean, and guitarist Earl Klugh. He also teaches at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.

Dr. Lateef’s first work for large orchestra, premiered in 1969 at the Georgia Symphony Orchestra in Augusta and it was performed in 1970 by the Detroit Symphony Orchestra at the Meadowbrook Music Festival, and recorded by the WDR Orchestra in Cologne.

The recorded highlight of this stage of his career is "Autophysiopsychic." In the 80s Dr. Lateef spent 4 years at the Center for Nigerian Cultural Studies at Ahmadu Bello University in Zaria, Nigeria researching the Fulani flute. In 1987 he won a Grammy for Yusef Lateef’s Little Symphony.

In 1992 he established his own label, YAL. In 1993, Yusef Lateef composed his most ambitious work to date, "The African American Epic Suite," a four-movement work for quintet and orchestra dedicated to 400 years of African- American history. It premiered with the WDR orchestra and later was also performed by the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and by the Detroit Symphony Orchestra.

Dr. Lateef continues to perform, record, and expand the boundaries of music. Currently, he concentrates more on the flute, performing and recording African percussion and pastoral works like his "Little Symphony and Cantata," released on YAL in 1994.

Yusef Lateef is a musician who for more than 50 years has used jazz artistic power from the Mississippi Delta to the Middle East.

Jazz: A History of the New York Scene
Samuel Charters and Leonard Kunstadt
(Doubleday, Garden City, N.Y., 1962) p.73

Jazz People
by Harry N. Abrams, Incorporated, New York
Copyright 1976
ISBN 0-8109-1152-3

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Yusef Lateef

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