"I extend heartfelt thanks to the NEA and all, past and present, who have extended kindness to me."
A virtuoso on the traditional jazz instruments of saxophone and flute, Yusef Lateef also brings a broad spectrum of sounds to his music through his mastery of such Middle Eastern and Asian reed instruments as the bamboo flute, shanai, shofar, argol, sarewa, and taiwan koto. A major force on the international musical scene for more than six decades, he was one of the first to bring a world music approach to traditional jazz.
Lateef was born William Emanuel Huddleston in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and moved with his family to Detroit in 1925. In Detroit's fertile musical environment, Lateef established personal and musical relationships with such jazz legends as Kenny Burrell, Donald Byrd, Paul Chambers, Tommy Flanagan, Milt Jackson, Barry Harris, the Jones brothers (Hank, Thad and Elvin), and Lucky Thompson. By the time he was 18 years old, he was touring professionally with swing bands led by Lucky Millinder, Roy Eldridge, Hot Lips Page, and Ernie Fields, performing under the name Bill Evans. In 1949, he was invited to perform with the Dizzy Gillespie Orchestra. At that time he converted to Islam and took the name by which he is now known: Yusef Lateef.
From 1955–59 he led a quintet in Detroit that included Ernie Farrell, Curtis Fuller, Louis Hayes, and Hugh Lawson. During that time, he began recording under his own name for Savoy Records. In 1960, he moved to New York City and joined Charles Mingus' band. He then performed and recorded with Cannonball Adderley from 1962-64. His albums as leader on Impulse! (1962-66) and Atlantic (1967-76) are considered some of his most exciting and diverse recordings.
As a composer, Lateef has compiled a body of work for soloists, small ensembles, chamber and symphony orchestras, stage bands, and choirs. His extended works have been performed by orchestras in Germany and the United States -- including the Atlanta, Augusta, and Detroit symphony orchestras -- and the Symphony of the New World. In 1987, he won a Grammy Award for his recording Yusef Lateef's Little Symphony, on which Lateef played all the instruments.
Lateef holds a bachelor's degree in music and a master's degree in music education from the Manhattan School of Music. From 1987 to 2002, he was a professor at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst, from which he was awarded a doctorate in education.
Lateef has performed extensively throughout the United States, Europe, Japan, and Africa. His touring ensembles have included master musicians such as Kenny Barron, Albert "Tootie" Heath, and Cecil McBee.
Eastern Sounds, Prestige/OJC, 1961
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