Yusef Lateef: A Jazz Legend and an Ahmadi Muslim

Lateef Yusuf

Yousef Lateef: Attracted to Pure Monotheism of Islam over Triune Mystery!

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia:
Yusef Abdul Lateef
Yusef Lateef.jpg

Lateef in a 2007 performance
Background information
Birth name William Emanuel Huddleston
Also known as Yusef Lateef
Born October 9, 1920
United States
Died December 23, 2013 (aged 93)
United States
Genres New Age musicjazzpost-bop,jazz fusionswinghard bop,third streamautophysiopsychic musicworld music
Occupations Musiciancomposereducator,spokesmanauthor
Instruments Tenor saxophonefluteoboe,bassoonbamboo fluteshehnai,shofararghulkoto
Years active 1957 – 2013
Labels SavoyPrestigeVerve,RiversideImpulseAtlantic,CTI, YAL Records
Associated acts Cannonball Adderley
Website www.yuseflateef.com

Yusef Abdul Lateef (born William Emanuel Huddleston, October 9, 1920 – December 23, 2013) was an American jazz multi-instrumentalist, composer and educator for the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community after his conversion to the Ahmadiyya sect of Islam in 1950.

Although Lateef’s main instruments were the tenor saxophone and flute, he also played oboe and bassoon, both rare in jazz, and also used a number of non-western instruments such as the bamboo fluteshanai,shofarxunarghul and koto. He is known for having been an innovator in the blending of jazz with “Eastern” music.[1] Peter Keepnews, in his New York Times obituary of Lateef, wrote that the musician “played world music before world music had a name.”[2]

Lateef wrote and published a number of books including two novellas entitled A Night in the Garden of Loveand Another Avenue, the short story collections Spheres and Rain Shapes, also his autobiography, The Gentle Giant, written in collaboration with Herb Boyd.[3] Along with his record label YAL Records, Lateef owned Fana Music, a music publishing company. Lateef published his own work through Fana, which includes Yusef Lateef’s Flute Book of the Blues and many of his own orchestral compositions.


Early life and career

Lateef was born in ChattanoogaTennessee. His family moved, in 1923, to LorainOhio and again in 1925, toDetroit, Michigan, where his father changed the family’s name to “Evans”.

Throughout his early life Lateef came into contact with many Detroit-based jazz musicians who went on to gain prominence, including vibraphonist Milt Jackson, bassist Paul Chambers, drummer Elvin Jones and guitaristKenny Burrell. Lateef was a proficient saxophonist by the time of his graduation from high school at the age of 18, when he launched his professional career and began touring with a number of swing bands.

In 1949, he was invited by Dizzy Gillespie to tour with his orchestra. In 1950, Lateef returned to Detroit and began his studies in composition and flute atWayne State University. It was during this period that he converted to Islam as a member of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community.[4]


Lateef began recording as a leader in 1957 for Savoy Records, a non-exclusive association which continued until 1959; the earliest of Lateef’s album’s for thePrestige subsidiary New Jazz overlap with them. Musicians such as Wilbur Harden (trumpet, flugelhorn), bassist Herman Wright, drummer Frank Gant, and pianist Hugh Lawson were among his collaborators during this period.

By 1961, with the recording of Into Something and Eastern Sounds, Lateef’s dominant presence within a group context had emerged. His ‘Eastern’ influences are clearly audible in all of these recordings, with spots for instruments like the rahab, shanaiarghulkoto and a collection of Chinese wooden flutes and bellsalong with his tenor and flute. Even his use of the western oboe sounds exotic in this context; it is not a standard jazz instrument. Indeed the tunes themselves are a mixture of jazz standards, blues and film music usually performed with a piano/bass/drums rhythm section in support. Lateef made numerous contributions to other people’s albums including his time as a member of saxophonist Cannonball Adderley’s Quintet during 1962–64.

Lateef’s sound has been claimed to have been a major influence on the saxophonist John Coltrane, whose later period free jazz recordings contain similarly ‘Eastern’ traits. For a time (1963–66) Lateef was signed to Coltrane’s label, Impulse. He had a regular working group during this period, with trumpeter Richard Williams and Mike Nock on piano.

In the late 1960s he began to incorporate contemporary soul and gospel phrasing into his music, still with a strong blues underlay, on albums such as Detroitand Hush’n’Thunder. Lateef expressed a dislike of the terms “jazz” and “jazz musician” as musical generalizations. As is so often the case with such generalizations, the use of these terms do understate the breadth of his sound. For example, in the 1980s, Lateef experimented with new age and spiritual elements.

In 1960, Lateef again returned to school, studying flute at the Manhattan School of Music in New York City. He received a Bachelor’s Degree in Music in 1969 and a Master’s Degree in Music Education in 1970. Starting in 1971, he taught courses in autophysiopsychic music at the Manhattan School of Music, and he became an associate professor at the Borough of Manhattan Community College in 1972.

In 1975, Lateef completed his dissertation on Western and Islamic education and earned a Ed.D. in Education from the University of Massachusetts Amherst. In the early 1980s Lateef was a Senior Research Fellow at the Center for Nigerian Cultural Studies at Ahmadu Bello University in the city of ZariaNigeria. Returning to the US in 1986 he took a joint teaching position at the University of Massachusetts and Hampshire College.

Later career

His 1987 album Yusef Lateef’s Little Symphony won the Grammy Award for Best New Age Album.[5][6] His core influences, however, were clearly rooted in jazz, and in his own words: “My music is jazz.”[7]

In 1992, Lateef founded YAL Records. In 1993, Lateef was commissioned by the WDR Radio Orchestra Cologne to compose The African American Epic Suite, a four-part work for orchestra and quartet based on themes of slavery and disfranchisement in the United States. The piece has since been performed by the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and the Detroit Symphony Orchestra.

In 2010 he received the lifetime Jazz Master Fellowship Award from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), an independent federal agency.[8][6]Established in 1982, the National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Masters award is the highest honor given in jazz.[9]

Manhattan School of Music, where Lateef had earned a bachelor’s and a master’s degree, awarded him its Distinguished Alumni Award in 2012.

Lateef’s last albums were recorded for Adam Rudolph‘s “Meta Records”. To the end of his life, he continued to teach at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and Hampshire College in western Massachusetts. Lateef died on the morning of December 23, 2013, at the age of 93, after suffering from prostate cancer.[10]


Lateef performing in 2007 at the Detroit Jazz Festival

Lateef performing in Hamburg, 1971

As leader

Savoy 1957-1959
Impulse! 1963-1966
Atlantic 1967 -1991
YAL Records 1992-2002
  • Tenors of Yusef Lateef and Von Freeman (1992)
  • Heart Vision (1992)
  • Yusef Lateef Plays Ballads (1993)
  • Tenors of Yusef Lateef and Archie Shepp (1993)
  • Woodwinds (1993)
  • Tenors of Yusef Lateef & Ricky Ford (1994)
  • Yusef Lateef’s Fantasia for Flute (1996)
  • Full Circle (1996)
  • CHNOPS: Gold & Soul (1997)
  • Earth and Sky (1997)
  • 9 Bagatelles (1998)
  • Like the Dust (1998)
  • Live at Luckman Theater (2001)
  • Earriptus (2001)
  • So Peace (2002)
  • A Tribute Concert for Yusef Lateef: YAL’s 10th Anniversary (2002)
Meta Records
  • The World at Peace (1997)
  • Beyond the Sky (2000)
  • Go: Organic Orchestra: In the Garden (2003)
  • Towards the Unknown (2010)
  • Voice Prints (2013)
Other labels

As sideman

With Cannonball Adderley

With Nat Adderley

With Ernestine Anderson

With Art Blakey

With Donald Byrd

  • Byrd Jazz (Transition, 1955)
  • First Flight (1957)

With Paul Chambers

With Art Farmer

With Curtis Fuller

With Grant Green

With Slide Hampton

  • Drum Suite (1962)

With Louis Hayes

  • Louis Hayes featuring Yusef Lateef & Nat Adderley (1960)

With Les McCann

  • Invitation to Openness (1972)

With Don McLean

With Charles Mingus

With Babatunde Olatunji

With Sonny Red

With Leon Redbone

With Clark Terry

  • Color Changes (1960)

With Doug Watkins

With Randy Weston

With Frank Wess

  • Jazz Is Busting Out All Over (1957)


  1. Jump up^ Encyclopedia of Jazz Musicians – Lateef, Yusef Abdul (William Evans). Retrieved 2013-04-06.
  2. Jump up^ Peter Keepnews “Yusef Lateef, Innovative Jazz Saxophonist and Flutist, Dies at 93”New York Times, 24 December 2013
  3. Jump up^ Yusef Lateef Comes to Grace Cathedral. Beyondchron.org. Retrieved 2010-11-11.
  4. Jump up^ “About Yusef Lateef”Yuseflateef.com. FANA Music/YAL Records. Retrieved December 5, 2012.
  5. Jump up^ Lateef Wins Grammy Award For Best New Age Album in 1987. books.google.com.br. Retrieved 2010-11-11.
  6. Jump up to:a b “About Yusef Lateef”Official website. 2013. Retrieved 11 June 2013.
  7. Jump up^ A Fireside Chat With Yusef Lateef
  8. Jump up^ Lateef Being Honored With Jazz Master Fellowship Award in 2010. Arts.endow.gov. Retrieved 2010-11-10.
  9. Jump up^ Jazz Master Fellowship Award Winners Through 1982–2011. Arts.endow.gov. Retrieved 2010-11-10.
  10. Jump up^ http://www.gazettenet.com/home/9933070-95/yusef-lateef-grammy-winning-musician-composer-dies-at-93

External links

Wikimedia Commons has media related to Yusef Lateef.

Categories: Ahmadiyyat: True Islam, Music

Tagged as:

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s