Yusef Lateef, who died on Monday after a bout with prostate cancer, was a devout Muslim who did not like his music to be called jazz because of the supposed indecent origins and connotations of the word (although those origins are still debated). He preferred the self-coined phrase "autophysiopsychic music." Furthermore, his music encompassed an impressively broad range of styles, and the only Grammy he won was in the New Age category -- for a recording of a symphony. Think about those things amid the flood of Lateef obituaries with "jazz" in the headline.
That said, certainly Lateef's own musical origins indisputably revolved around jazz. Growing up in Detroit, a highly fertile musical environment in the 1930s and beyond, Lateef got his first instrument, an $80 Martin alto sax, at age 18. Within a year he was on the road with the 13 Spirits of Swing (arrangements by Milt Buckner).A Detroit friend, tenor saxophonist Lucky Thompson, helped Lateef get work with Lucky Millinder in 1946, and though the man he was brought in to replace ended up not leaving the band, it brought Lateef to New York, where he heard Coleman Hawkins, Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, and more, and played with Hot Lips Page and Roy Eldridge. He then joined the Ernie Fields Orchestra for about a year. His next stop was Chicago in 1947-48, where he and Sonny Stitt practiced together. It was at the end of 1948 that he made his first released recordings, with bassist Eugene Wright & His Kings of Swing, a group which included Sonny Blount, later known as Sun Ra. And it was in Chicago that he was introduced to Islam, specifically the Ahmadiyya movement, and changed his name from Bill Evans to Yusef Lateef.
Lateef then played tenor in the Gillespie big band for more than a year, recording for RCA and Spotlite, until the economics of post-war jazz broke up that band and Yusef returned to Detroit. He continued playing, with Kenny Burrell and as a leader, worked on an automobile assembly line, and studied at area music schools. He took up flute at the suggestion of Burrell around 1951; oboe followed, with lessons from the first-chair oboist in the Detroit Symphony, Ronald Odemark. Even working at Chrysler contributed to his musical development when a Syrian co-worker made him a rabat (a one-string fiddle made out of horse hair and goat skin), which he later used in a number of pieces instead of bass. Lateef quit Chrysler when his band got a six-night-a-week job playing at Klein's Show Bar, and in April 1957, 37 years old and a professional musician for more than 17 years, he played his first two sessions as a leader, for Savoy, using his Klein's group of Curtis Fuller (trombone), Hugh Lawson (piano), Ernie Farrow (bass), and Louis Hayes (drums), with percussionist Doug Watkins added for recording. The musical style was basically hard bop, sometimes mixed with R&B/jump blues styles and some early forays into world music-inspired sounds on which he played argol, a Middle Eastern twin-piped reed, and used the aforementioned rabat, exploring a heavily modal sound on some tracks.
Additional sessions for Savoy, Verve, and Prestige over the next two-and-a-half years began to establish his reputation. Among the especially notable: The Sounds of Yusef Lateef (Prestige, 1957) includes a nifty version of "Take the 'A' Train" but caused some controversy with its use of a 7-Up bottle and balloons, making some observers wonder if Lateef, then a newcomer, was serious. He was, but he had his humorous side too and didn't see the two moods as exclusive of each other. He also was incorporating instruments from around the world into his music, and played argol here. Other Sounds (New Jazz [a Prestige sub-label], 1957) is from the same session, with Wilbur Harden (flugelhorn), Lawson, Farrow, and Oliver Jackson (drums).
His rising profile enabled Lateef to move to New York City, where he joined the Charles Mingus band, which already contained Eric Dolphy and Rahsaan Roland Kirk. He soon became a member of the Cannonball Adderley Sextet, and his work with that very popular band exposed Lateef's talents on sax, oboe, and flute to a broad audience, with his oboe feature on the blues standard "Trouble in Mind" much noted.
He continued to record prolifically as a leader, and this period produced some of his most important albums. The Centaur and the Phoenix (Riverside, 1960) contains his most complex session and largest group of this period, with two trumpets (Clark Terry and Richard Williams), trombonist Fuller, baritone sax (Tate Houston), bassoon (Josea Taylor), Lateef on tenor, oboe, flute, and argol, and a rhythm section of pianist Joe Zawinul, bassist Ben Tucker (bass), and drummer Lex Humphries (drums). The music includes arrangements of material by symphonic composer Charles Mills, plus a pair of considerably less ambitious bonus tracks, probably an aborted single, from 1961. Eastern Sounds (Prestige, 1961), a quartet with pianist Barry Harris, Farrow, and Humphries, is notable for "The Plum Blossom, " on which Lateef plays the Chinese globular flute, a pentatonic instrument with only a five-note range. Its restricted range matters little compared to how well he exploits the instrument's unique tone. Into Something (New Jazz, 1961) offers the most straight-ahead compositions, including a few standards and the oboe blues "Rasheed," with drummer Elvin Jones swinging fiercely throughout. Harris and bassist Herman Wright complete the quartet.
In 1963, Lateef signed to Impulse!, the same label as his friend John Coltrane, and made Jazz 'Round the World, the first of six excellent albums for Impulse!. The quintet date Live at Pep's (1964), his most popular Impulse! release, captures a smoking club date with trumpeter Richard Williams, pianist Mike Nock, bassist Ernie Farrow, and drummer James Black, a tight working unit. "Sister Mamie" is a soul-jazz classic.
Lateef's discussions with Dolphy and Coltrane were mutually influential, with his interests in world music especially stimulating to them. He later compiled the impressive book Repository of Scales and Melodic Patterns (FANA Publishing, Amherst, 1981), which draws on a vast range of material: expansions on scales derived from Scriabin, Berg, and Bartok; Hungarian, Egyptian, Pygmy, Chinese, Mongolian, Japanese, Indian, Persian, Arabic, and archaic Greek scales; Lateef's triple-diminished tone rows, and much more, including "synthetic formations" given to Lateef by Dolphy in 1961. (Lateef also wrote Flute Book of the Blues vols. 1 & 2, Method on How to Improvise (Soul Music), and Music for Two Flutes (20 Modern Duets), as well as various scholarly papers.)
After Impulse!, Lateef signed with Atlantic (where he also did session work, often under the pseudonym "Joe Gentle," on records by Little Jimmie Scott, Esther Phillips, Ray Bryant, Roberta Flack, and others) and then CTI, his work on both labels often strongly flavored with pop and R&B sounds. At the same time he was accumulating a considerable number of degrees in music and education, and at the end of the 1970s, Lateef interrupted his Stateside recording career to move to Nigeria to accept a teaching position.
When he returned in the mid-1980s, his musical style shifted to a more composed vein. This frequently misunderstood second Atlantic period includes much beautiful work. His first new recording, Yusef Lateef's Little Symphony , released in 1987, won the New Age Grammy Award, though it's more classical in nature. He followed up with Concerto for Yusef Lateef, the gorgeous Nocturnes, and a number of other works also unfairly maligned by critics who dismissed it merely for not being jazz. My favorite of these is the largely unheralded Nocturnes (1989), meditative chamber music on which Lateef played flutes and, in a first for him, keyboards, joined by three horns but no rhythm section; the music floats, creating beautiful soundscapes closer to impressionism than anything else but utterly original.
When his contract with Atlantic was not renewed, Lateef formed his own label in 1992, YAL, and entered his most prolific period. Tenors of Yusef Lateef & Archie Shepp (YAL, 1992) is the prize in Lateef's series of two-tenor records, with full-bodied playing by the stars and tracks dedicated to Thelonious Monk and Gene Ammons. The African-American Epic Suite (ACT/Blue Jackel, 1994), a four-movement depiction of the African-American experience for quintet and orchestra, commissioned for the Köln Radio Orchestra. Given a luxurious eight days to record, the quintet (with Lateef and Ralph Jones III on winds, Federico Ramos on acoustic and electric guitars, Charles Moore on flugelhorn, shofar, dumbek, and conch shell, and world percussionist Adam Rudolph) is well-integrated within the larger group, and the orchestration is quite effective. Fantasia for Flute (YAL, 1996) is stylistically similar to the best of the later Atlantic material, and has Lateef at the peak of his flute powers. Earth and Sky, Tenors and Flutes] (YAL, 1997) found Lateef sounding vital and imaginative on an album which came as quite a surprise: over angular rhythms suggestive of the funk/hip-hop incorporations of Steve Coleman, Lateef rapped (okay, recited short poetic phrases, does that make purists feel more comfortable?) in hypnotic fashion, which somehow relates back to blues. His speaking voice is a beautiful instrument, and his lyrics reflect his gentle philosophy.
My favorite from this period is The World at Peace: Music for 12 Musicians] (YAL & Meta, 1996), a dual release on Lateef's and Rudolph's labels. A major work full of innovative writing which may well be the crowning achievement of Lateef's 1990s work, its high ambition is matched by its unfailing achievement. Lateef's use of unusual compositional processes peaked here; he and Rudolph wrote parts separately that nonetheless fit together almost magically. They continued to work together, and their 2005 album In the Garden is also excellent (my review is here).
Lateef was long ensconced at the University of Massachusetts and at Hampshire College in Amherst, MA and continued to explore new systems of musical expression, remaining active till the end.
On July 12, 1997 I interviewed Lateef in his Amherst office for British magazine The Wire (which made a mess of my article by interpolated a bunch of nonsense about Black Muslims, which had nothing to do with Lateef's Ahmadiyya beliefs). Here, published for the first time, is the complete transcript of that interview. Note how gentle Lateef was with the nearly ignorant interviewer!
SH: I guess I'll start at the very beginning. I've seen two different dates for your birth, 1920 and 1921.
YL: '20 is correct, 2/11/20.
SH: In Tennessee.
YL: Yeah, Chattanooga.
SH: And when and why did your family move to Detroit?
YL: Actually my father, I think he was in quest of a better life and work I suppose. We moved from Chattanooga to Lorraine, Ohio when I was about three. And then when I was four he migrated to Detroit from Lorraine and I started kindergarten in Detroit. That's where I remember as home, Detroit.
SH: And when did you start playing music?
YL: In high school. Back in my first year in high school, I was 18.
SH: And what prompted it?
YL: The influences that existed in my environment. Like local musicians, I would find them playing in the street that I would frequent, the main street, it was called Hastings Street in Detroit, it's now the Chrysler Freeway. I would stand outside the windows and hear musicians play, trumpets, saxophones, drums. And also when I was 12, I lived upstairs over a theater called the Arcady Theater, and they had stage shows there, and I lived over it and on the roof I could look though the window from the cinema projector. They would let me look through the window at the pictures and at the stage show. And there was a tenor player named Al Farush [?], and a trumpet player named Buddy Bell, and sometimes I would go in the theater and sit with him right in front and listen to him, watch him, and I became influenced and decided I wanted to play music just by those impressions.
SH: And there was quite a thriving scene in Detroit at that time.
YL: Well, yeah, I was only 12 then but there was a lot of music, a lot of live bands all around the city. And finally I got an instrument by the time I was 18. When my Dad told me if I got half of the money he would give me the rest, so I found a saxophone for $80, alto saxophone. And I sold papers and I saved up $40 and my Dad gave me the other 40. So at 18 I got this Martin alto saxophone. And I entered high school, and I [started] the saxophone in high school formally with a music teacher named John Cabrera. I remember, it was at the Miller High School, and Milt Jackson was in that class and I was there the day that John Cabrera suggested that Milton play vibraphones, and obviously he's become one of the world's great vibraphonists. And his brother Alvin Jackson was there and he played bass, and there was a tenor saxophonist named Lorenzo Lawson, who was, I think he graduated by the year after I got there, he could really play the tenor saxophone, he was an impression. But he died young, and he was supposed to take Lester Young's place with Count Basie when Lester left, but he died, prematurely, Lorenzo Lawson.
SH: Was he any relation to Hugh Lawson?
YL: No he wasn't, I asked Hugh about that, he was no relation, but he certainly was a great influence, on all of us. And of course, other than the local influences, every Monday, at a place called the Greystone Ballroom in Detroit, which is no longer the Greystone Ballroom, there would be a band from out of town, like Andy Kirk, Count Basie, Don Redman, Tiny Bradshaw, Cab Calloway, and we would go, the musicians, those who liked music, we would stand in front of the band and listen to Lester Young, and Don Byas, and we'd do very little dancing, we would just listen. And of course when Cab came we would hear Chu Berry and I saw him play, and there was Budd Johnson with Earl Hines's band, and there was the Jimmie Lunceford Band, and I'm trying to remember what tenor player, Jimmy Crawford, no, that was the drummer, I can't remember his name but there was a very good tenor player with the Jimmie Lunceford Orchestra, he later became a funeral director, but he could play the tenor saxophone [maybe he means Joe Thomas].
SH: Sy Oliver was his arranger, right?
YL: I think so, I think so. Snooky Young was with them. With the Andy Kirk Orchestra there was Dick Wilson, a tenor player, who influenced me very much. He had such a beautiful sound. There was Dick Wilson with that band, and Don Byas. And with the Tiny Bradshaw Orchestra there was Count Hastings, I don't know if you remember that tenor player. But I used to check all the tenor players with those big bands, because I became gung-ho for the tenor saxophone, although I played alto for the first year. And of course there were the local musicians like I mentioned, Al Farush, Buddy Bell, et cetera. There was a local tenor player named Louis Barnett who could play quite well, he was an influence. So I had many influences. There was Kenny Burrell's brother, Billy Burrell, he played guitar, and he later changed to bass. And fortunately I played with a high school band, it was called Matthew Rucker and the Spirits of Swing. It was 13 pieces. We left high school for a year, in 1939 I think, and we were fronted by a band leader named Hartley Toutes [?] out of Florida. And we had a stage show with the Whitman Sisters, the dancers Pops and Louis Whitman. And we traveled all the way from Detroit to Miami, Florida, for a year. And that was a great experience. And we returned and finished high school. The trumpet player, the leader was a trumpet player, Matthew Rucker. And he used to win all the first-place contests in the state of Michigan, he was such a dynamic trumpet player. And now he owns the Blue Ribbon Taxi Cab Company, in Detroit. And I was fortunate to have that experience. And we were the most-loved band big band in Detroit at that time. In the saxophone section was myself, Alfonso Ford the other tenor player, he played first tenor, he passed, and Frank Porter, who was the third alto player, he's now retired, he lives in Cleveland. And John Taylor, the first alto player, the dynamic first alto player, he also played with Andy Kirk later on, he played baritone. He passed also. That was the saxophone section, four saxophones. Willie Shorter played piano. He worked for Motown later on, he was the composer for Motown. Lawrence Hicks was the drummer, he passed also, Walter Bragg was the bassist. Priscilla Royster was the vocalist, she now lives in Canada. And that was a great experience. And we had an arranger for the band, who really helped make the band kind of...he played organ...his brother played with Jimmie Lunceford, I can't think of his name! Maybe it will come to my mind later. But it was a grand 13-piece band.
SH: It seems that the big bands were very fertile ground for producing a lot of musicians who really had the basics down, and that that has perhaps been missed since the demise of the big bands.
YL: Yeah, that was kind of the grooming station, the big bands of the '30s and '40s. But the big band, it went out in the early '40s I think...the late '40s. It was too expensive, I think, to carry a big band around. I think that's why Dizzy broke up his big band, which I had the good fortune of playing with, '48-49. And the small combos came in.
SH: I've read that Lucky Thompson recommended you to Lucky Millinder, and Lucky Thompson is from Detroit I guess, how you did you get that recommendation?
YL: Yeah, Lucky and I were and still are good friends, we were good friends. Lucky went to Cass High School which is one of the better high schools in Detroit. And he sat behind my wife in algebra class, I remember that. I knew Lucky, and we used to practice out of the Ben Verekan [sp?] saxophone book in my basement, that was, say, around '41-42. Lucky was very determined to develop himself. In fact, before he got a saxophone he got a broomstick and cut notches on it, for keys, and practiced. Lucky left Detroit maybe right after Wardell Gray did. He went to New York early, maybe '42-43, and he was in an environment of people like Coleman Hawkins and Don Byas, and I think Coleman Hawkins took a liking to Lucky, and Lucky learned how to play quite well at an early age as a result of being in that environment. And it was in about '45, Lucky recommended me for a position with a group called the Bama State Collegians and the Trenier Brothers and I joined them in Chicago, Sonny Stitt was in the band, Lucky was in the band, his wife was the vocalist, and I think Johnny Jackson was in the band playing first alto. Anyway, we played the Regal Theater, and the band broke up after that week. So I went back to Detroit. And then later on in '46, the next year, Lucky recommended me for a position with Lucky Millinder. I left Detroit and went to New York in '46 to join Lucky Millinder. They were at the Apollo Theater when I arrived. This was the last week for the tenor player whose place I was to take. So I practiced the music all week in the hotel there, but at the end of that week something happened, the tenor player was supposed to go with Cab, and he didn't go and he stayed with Lucky. So Lucky, he apologized and gave me two week's pay, which was the union rule. And I just stayed in New York. I was so fascinated by it, to be there and see all those musicians standing on the corner like Hot Lips Page and Coleman Hawkins, and 42nd Street was Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, so I just stayed in New York. And during that time I had the good fortune of playing with people like Hot Lips Page, Roy Eldridge, and finally I left town with a group out of Tulsa called Ernie Fields. I must have stayed with Ernie Fields about a year and then I thought it was time to leave. I went to Chicago, there was a lot of music there. In fact Gene Ammons was there, Sonny Stitt was there, so it was like '47-48, that I was in Chicago. And Sonny and myself, and some other musicians, Buddy Butler the drummer, we'd get up every day and practice together.
SH: And it when you were in Chicago that you recorded with Eugene Wright.
YL: Yeah, I don't know if I recorded, I played with him.
SH: Uh, it's on your discography.
YL: I've seen that, I don't remember recording, it could be correct.
SH: Well, it also lists Sun Ra in the band.
YL: Sun Ra was in the band.
SH: And obviously there's some potential connections in your interests and his interests.
YL: Well, I don't know. His name was Sonny Blount then and he was the pianist and composer. He would write things like "Spellbound," that was a moving picture. Spellbound, do you remember that? It was a psychologically involved picture if I remember correctly. Anyhow he would write some unusual arrangements and I had the pleasure of playing them with Eugene Wright. He was the first musician I knew that had a tape recorder, a wire tape recorder. And I met him then and there. From Chicago I joined Dizzy. I called Dizzy, I heard that Moody had stayed in France after recording "Moody's Mood for Love" and he needed a tenor player so Dizzy sent me a plane ticket to join him in San Francisco, that was, I think, '48. And I did, and I stayed with Dizzy for a couple of years.
SH: And it was some time in that period that you converted to Islam?
YL: It was. I converted in about the last of '48, through the Ahmadiyya movement in Islam.
SH: I don't really know too much about this so I hope you'll go into some depth.
YL: Well, the Ahmadiyya movement in Islam was founded by a man named Hadhrat Mizta Ghulam Ahmad. He lived from 1835 to 1908, and the movement [was]founded in 1889. There are over ten million Ahmadiyya Muslims now in the world in over 120 countries. And I was introduced to Islam through this movement through a man named Talib Dahoud [sp?]who played trumpet I met in Chicago during that time I lived in Chicago, he told me about the Ahmadiyya movement in Islam. And so when I went to New York I would visit the Ahmadiyya mission house. And finally after a year I embraced it, because I thought it was the right thing to do and it seemed right. It preached the unity of mankind, and brotherhood. Of course, that was the way I had felt about humanity for years, that humanity should be united as one, one brotherhood. And that's what the movement preached and practiced, so I said, better come on in, you know, 'cause that sounds right. And I saw this practice, I've seen that happen. I've been to the Ahmadiyya mission houses in various countries, in Ghana, Nigeria, Copenhagen, Hamburg, I knew some German Ahmadiyyas, Indonesian, Bangladesh, Swedish. And so I'm convinced that it's correct for me. And I don't know anywhere else to go. So that happened, I was initiated in about'48.
SH: And you were attracted to it obviously because it jibed with how you felt, but did it also have some influence on you?
YL: Yeah, I hope it has. I feel that it has. I feel that I've become a better human being, more sensitive to the needs of other people. And I try to respond to those things. And this is something that I felt is natural, from a youth. You know, pre-Islam I used to carry the Bible around, I would read it. I've always been interested in God, the idea of God, and who is God and how does he function and what is our relation. And Islam claims to bring one into the focus of realizing that God is their earthly helper, and it gives one the means of developing a relationship with the Creator through prayer, through good deeds, and this is something that one experiences by doing these things. And that's what I've realized. And of course then there are the Hadeese [sp?] which are the sayings of the prophet, which is, 'Seek knowledge from the cradle to the grave. Seek knowledge even though it be in China.' And I've tried to embrace these ideas, they had lots to do with me going back to school. And the idea in the teachings is that the purpose of obtaining knowledge is to help others -- that means so much to me, it takes away selfishness. It helps you quell that if it should loom up, you know. And so those kinds of ideas appeal to me because it makes me feel like a brother to all humanity. It makes me feel like a servant. Those are some of the ideas that influence me and have had a kind of an effect on my existence, on the way I look at life and humanity. I think some of what I am telling you manifested before my mother and father died, because they never censored me for becoming Muslim, because I think they could see the truth, I had more love for them than I'd ever had. Of course parents can see things that you can't see. It's caused me to be more serious about the evolution of my occupation as a musician and teacher. I take it very seriously and I try to evolve my music rather than establish one thing and just do that the rest of my life. That's why my music seems to take on different shapes, from time to time. Because I nourish certain ideas and try to develop and bring in processes that I've never used before.
SH: Adam [Rudolph] said that you told him that you try to do something new on every record.
YL: Yeah. New or different. As opposed to doing the same thing. Like say I write a song on the changes of "I Got Rhythm." I wouldn't want to do the same thing the next album, I wouldn't want to use the same structure. That to me would be a kind of complacency. So I look for other structures, I try to develop structures and forms to hang my hardware and my expression on. And it's interesting, it's a challenge, but it's interesting at the same time, because every day I have to go back to where I left off and try to move from that point. It's like a journey through poetics. You know, for the last two or three months, from time to time I think about Billie Holiday, what a great teacher she was. She taught so much in what she left with us, the music. She taught us about the spirit. The depth of feeling, how one can put expression and feeling into sound. You know, when I was a young guy I used to listen to her over and over every day, just for that element, that was so prevalent. I mean, she gave you more than notes and intervals, she gave you her spirit. It was embedded in each sound.
SH: One of the things you said about searching for knowledge even if you have to find it in China...
YL: Even though it be in China.
SH: ...certainly suggests a motivation for your use of multiple instruments, which probably surpasses anyone. The number of instruments that you have played on your records is mind-boggling.
YL: I hadn't thought about it like that [chuckles]. I have a penchant for finding instruments that I can utilize. Sometimes they come when I don't expect them. Like I was playing at Ronnie Scotts in the '60s and a Chinese man gave me a Buddhist temple flute. And I still have it. I was walking through Chinatown one day in New York and I saw a little globular-like object and it was the Chinese globular flute, and I recorded a piece called "Plum Blossom." And it has such a beautiful delicate sound, you know. It was liked so much by Guy Stevens -- Yusef Salaam -- he put words to it. I think it's "My dog likes your dog," and he pays me the royalties as a result of putting words to that piece that came from a little Chinese flute, was based on the pentatonic scale. Then I remember playing Complain-la-Tour [Belgium] with Cannonball Adderley in '63, an Indian pianist came up and asked me did I know about the shinae? Which was a double-reed instrument, I told him no, so he sent me one. Later I found out that Bismilla Khan is the virtuoso of the shinae, and I've utilized that instrument in some of my pieces, compositions. So you never where instruments are coming from. And then, I have a penchant for making flutes. I manufacture flutes from time to time. I made one flute Cannonball named the Pneumatic Bamboo Flute, that you insert the finger in as well as manipulate the holes. But there are only three holes for finger holes. And then I made the Moan flute, the diameter of this flute is about five inches, it's the biggest piece of bamboo I've ever had in diameter, I got it in Nigeria. I call it the Moan flute, there's only the aperture to blow in, and you manipulate the sound by closing the end of it off, and releasing the opening at the end. And I've found numerous places to utilize that, in different compositions.
SH:When did you begin adding to your instrument collection like this?
YL: That started when I began to record in '56. I made my first recording, and it was then that I decided that I would have to expand the canvas of my music if I were to keep recording. And so I started looking for instruments that I could utilize like the argol, and I made an instrument called the "earth board" during the '50s, of wire and wood. A friend that I met at Chrysler, Chrysler Auto Company, a Syrian person, he made a rebab, that's the one-string fiddle, made out of horse hair and goat skin, and I utilized that in a piece called "Morning." And it was during that period that I began to study the oboe, also.
SH: Which you studied with the first oboe in the Detroit Symphony
YL: Yes, Ronald Odemark, yes, and I studied bassoon after I arrived in New York.
SH: After you had been in New York you moved back to Detroit and studied music at two different colleges.
YL: Yes. You mean in Detroit? I went to Williams State, I took some classes, and Larry Teal School of Music. Yes. I began to study flute at the Larry Teal School of Music. That's about 1951. Kenny Burrell suggested that I study flute, I was playing with him, and I took him up on it. Well at the same time during that period of '50-55, I was also working at Chrysler Motor Company in the daytime, and I'd only take a few hours a semester in the evenings. I studied theory, music theory, oboe, a flute, I took some history courses, some English courses. I studied orchestration, I studied symphonic tone poem there at Williams State. I studied with Mr. Barrell at the Teal School of Music, the Schillinger system of music. I must have acquired maybe 40-something credits, which I transferred to the Manhattan School of Music when I moved to New York.
SH: So you have a pretty thorough classical background.
YL: Yeah, I think so. It's not bad.
SH: You're a modest guy.
YL: Well, you know.
SH: So was Chrysler how you supported yourself financially?
YL: Yes. I had two children and I had to support myself. Because trying to support oneself by music in Detroit during that period, which was the period that they had a recession, I don't know if you heard that term, they didn't call it depression they called it recession.
SH: Right, doesn't scare us so bad, supposedly.
YL: [laughs] Softens it up a bit. I would work three nights on the weekend, $8 a night, $24 a week, that's not enough to support a family. And so I got a day job to make ends meet.
SH: What were you doing at Chrysler?
YL: I did several things. I had one job in the lye tank, which meant that I would take these Chrysler hoods, sometimes the big Imperial hoods, that were scratched after they had been painted and I had to put them down into hot water and lye to strip the paint off of them. That's called the lye tank. Then after that I was transferred to the water deck, where they sand the hoods. The men sand them. But I was the guy who hung them up after they sanded and washed them. Me and my companion would take them off and hang them up on a conveyor, and they would go around to be painted again. And that was my last operation there. I did that for five years from '50 through '55. And then I got this six-night-a-week job playing at a place called Klein's Show Bar, and I couldn't handle the day job and that, so I had to give up the day job.
SH: And then the next year you made your first record as a leader.
YL: That's right.
SH: Was that with your regular group?
YL: Yes. It was with the Klein's group, which consisted of Curtis Fuller, trombone, Hugh Lawson, piano, Ernie Farrow, bass, Louis Hayes, drums. That was the group.
SH: And that group gives some idea of just how amazing the Detroit scene was at that time.
YL: You think the group reflects that? I think in a way, because you know we had, Paul Chambers was there, and Kenny Burrell, Donald Byrd, Roy Brooks, Barry Harris, Frank Foster, Thad Jones, it was quite an environment at that time.
SH: Really. And you continued to play with a lot of these people later on.
YL: Sure, sure.
SH: And Elvin Jones.
YL: That's right, Elvin was there. He'd come down...he was a Pontiac guy.
SH: Doug Watkins.
YL: Doug Watkins was there, I lived a few blocks from Doug then. Two blocks from Paul. It was a wonderful period.
SH: You can definitely stack that period of Detroit up against almost any city, any time.
YL: In a sense you could, yeah.
SH: And you were recording for Savoy and Verve at the same time?
YL: That's right. First it was Savoy, and then I was approached by, you said Prestige didn't you?
SH: Verve. You made one album for Verve.
YL: Yeah, that was the third one.
SH: Which I was lucky enough to find, actually.
YL: It was called Before Dawn? They may have renamed it.
SH: I think they did.
YL: Dizzy oversaw that session if I'm not mistaken. Yeah, I made one for Verve, too, during that period.
SH: And my impression of Savoy was always that they didn't like people recording for other labels at the same time.
YL: Well, they never told me that, you know.
SH: They practically ruined Little Jimmy Scott's career over something like that.
YL: Is that right? He's a great singer, too.
SH: He put a record out on Ray Charles' label and they made Ray Charles recall them all.
YL: Oh, I didn't know that.
SH: Yeah, on Tangerine.
YL: Well, I was freelancing, doing one-shot deals, so they never said that I couldn't record for anyone else. You know Isaac Adina was the A&R person. Oh no, they never said anything to me.
SH: And then, later that year you did start recording for Prestige.
YL: Yeah. That was the second company that approached me. You know, we'd work six nights at Kline's in Detroit. We'd get off Sunday night, jump in the car, we'd be in Hackensack, New Jersey, on Monday at noon, and record, go back that night and start working on Tuesday. And that also happened for Prestige, too. Sometimes we would go into Hackensack, Van Gelder's, he was in Hackensack...[unintelligible]... and record for Prestige. So we recorded for both companies intermittently. Because we had a lot of material, we'd been working six nights a week for five years. We'd rehearse every week, we had a lot of material, so we could do two albums easily in a year.
SH: You did The Phoenix and the Centaur.
YL: Yeah, that was after I moved to New York. Must've been '60. I moved back to New York in '60. And I met Charles Mill, Charles Mills, who composed that album. I did that for Riverside.
SH: He did a couple tracks on there and he wrote for the Cincinnati Symphony, I saw. Just reading the liner notes for that album made me interested, I'd love to know more about him. He sounds like an interesting guy.
YL: I don't know where he is. He was a very interesting man, he could write, he could sit in a park and write a symphony. He also did drawing, ink drawings, that were very exciting. He just disappeared, I don't know where Charles is. But he was a friend and very gifted composer. The Centaur and the Phoenix was a difficult album to record. We had to do it in sections at times, it was so demanding. It was an interesting album.
SH: And that album, I'm not sure if it that was the first one, but I think that's what started your trend of working with foreign pianists. Zawinul, and George Arvanitas, and Mike Nock, I don't know of any others. But just, right there, all of a sudden you've got three guys, that's more than most people. As far as working with foreign pianists and yet being based in the U.S.
YL: Well you know, the way I looked at it, if they could deliver, they're welcome. They were very sensitive players. That's what I needed.
SH: And of course there were also the people like Hugh Lawson and Barry Harris.
YL: And Kenneth Barron.
SH: There was sort of a movement away from using piano players during the '60s, and you stuck with piano players the whole time.
YL: There was, yeah, I know what you're saying. But there were times when I would tell the piano player to stroll. That was the word, you know. You know about strolling. Mulligan was into that, too, and Miles.
SH: Yes, Miles annoyed Monk no end by telling him to lay out.
YL: Yeah, I guess that was a problem, to ask him to lay out. It seems though, well, the piano locks things in to tonality if the pianist is playing chords, you know like G minor to C7 to F major 7 to A flat 7, and it sets up a tonality when the piano is playing that way. And I think many of the single line players, they wanted more freedom, they wanted to be relegated to those kind of chorded systems. And that's why they asked them to stroll, where you just hear, the only melodic instrument you hear is the bass, one tone at a time. Now one can relate to those single tones more freely than one can relate to a chord that's G minor on the piano. And musicians were seeking freedom, you know. And that's one reason they started asking the pianist to stroll. Particularly when they play that way. Had the piano players been playing like, minor seconds, as opposed to chords, they might have welcomed them to continue playing. This is just my thought about it.
SH: One of the songs that is most associated with you is "Sister Mamie." And that's very definitely something where the piano player is not playing on chords.
YL: That's true, it's a multi-key.
SH: The version that I'm familiar with I think is with Mike Nock. Is he on Live at Pep's?
YL: ....I think it is Mike.
SH: Basically, yeah it's modal, but it's more of just a vamp on these notes at the extreme ranges.
YL: Of course.
SH: What always amused me about that is you hear this title "Sister Mamie" and you think oh, it's gonna be something like Horace Silver.
YL: Oh, I see.
SH: You know, that sort of hard-bop, Sister-whatever-the-woman's-name-is...completely different! And yet its still got that feeling, it just doesn't use the structure and the materials.
YL: That's right, it can be gotten different ways, the same feeling. "Sister Mamie" was literally a person, you know, who had a warm, down-to-earth personality. And that's all I wanted to express.
SH: And that was one of the things you played on shenai?
YL: Shenai, correct. In D-minor, yeah.
SH: And then you did move, I guess, you were playing and recording so much in New York that you just moved?
YL: You mean, moved from New York?
SH: Moved to New York?
YL: Oh yeah, well things kind of subsided, ebbed down in Detroit. There was nothing else to do. So I said "better go to New York where most of the music industry is." So in January of '60 I drove to New York and moved into the Bushwick section. I stayed there two years, and I went down to the Showplace and sat in with Mingus, and gave me a job, Eric Dolphy and myself and Rahsaan, and I worked with him, then I worked with Babatundi Olatunji. During '60-61, I did some recordings behind some singers with Ernie Wilkins, I did some recording sessions. And then I moved to Teaneck, across the river. And I moved there, I think the end of '62. And then I got an offer to go with Cannonball in '62. I worked with Cannonball in '62-63. That was my first opportunity to go to Europe, and Japan. In fact I haven't been to Japan since. And then after I left Cannonball I entered school, in the Manhattan School of Music. I went and finished my degree. I entered there in '65. In three years I got my Bachelors in music majoring in flute. And in '69 I enrolled for a Masters in music education, got that in '70. And then I enrolled, I wanted to study something else. So I enrolled in the New School for Social Research, in '70. And I studied philosophy for a year. I studied the pre-Socratics, the Existentialists, symbolic logic, the Pragmatists, for about a year. And then at the end of '70, in '71 I had an offer to enter a doctoral program at the University of Mass in education, so I accepted that. And it was...'72, yeah. And in '75 I got my doctorate in education from the University of Mass.
SH: And education obviously is very important to you.
YL: Yeah, I like education. It's an opportunity to open up vistas for people and for yourself too. I find that teaching makes you learn more. Students ask me things sometimes, you have to go home and figure it out. It makes you do research, and that's another reason I like it. Plus, students teach me things. They look at things differently. And actually, that's what I try to induce in a student. I try to have a student become one who teaches himself something. Then I feel that I've been successful.
SH: Then you in the '80s moved to Nigeria to teach for awhile.
YL: That was in '80, I had this offer. But first I taught, after I got my doctorate in '75 I taught at the Borough of Manhattan Community College for six years, lacking one day, and I liked the job. And I was kind of disappointed because I was lacking one day having tenure, but they let go the whole department, so I went back on the road in '75, about five years playing. My son was born in '75 also, so I took him on the road with me, him and my wife, three months old.
SH: And what's your wife's name?
YL: Tahira. But I said, when he becomes five, and time to go to school, I won't be on the road. So just before he was five I got the offer to teach in Nigeria, to be a senior research fellow in the Center for Nigerian Culture Studies at Amadubela University in Zaire. So I took it, and he was just five so he started staff school there in Nigeria. It was '81. That was an interesting job, very exciting. I had to do research into the Fulani flute, you know the Fulani people are the cattle barons in Nigeria, they raise their cattle throughout Nigeria. They have a flute, it's called a sarewa [sp?], they make it out of wood. In the urban areas they make them out of steel tubing, bicycle pumps. Anyway, these Fulani in the evening when they graze their cattle they sit and they take this twig from a lagouda [sp?] tree and they whittle the flute and they start to play it. So I had to do research into that flute. I had an interpreter. Found out a lot of things about folk medecine and the flute and about marriage and the rituals, the marriage of the Fulani. And part of my research is in a book from the Ministry of Nigerian Cultural Studies....it was written with a colleague who was in drama, his name was Ziggy Kofolola [?], he wrote about drama in Northern Nigeria, I wrote about the instruments and musicians in Northern Nigeria. The book is in the library, the Tower Library in U Mass. And while I was there I wrote a fingering chart for the instrument, which they didn't have before. There are four holes and there are no keys. But the range is larger than the C-flute that we utilize, the Germanic C-flute. And it's amazing how these guys play it, they dance and play at the same time, some of them. So I changed the materials. I left some made of glass, and copper, and changed the shape of it. When I got there they were all shaped cylindrical like this. But I put a bulb like the English horn on the end, and the glass ones had a very silvery, beautiful sound. And I left the fingering chart. That was my main duty, then I had another duty. I had to interact with the African dramatists and musicians. You see, at the center where I taught, they had a year's course for Nigerian Cultural officers who would come down from different emirates and take the courses there for a year. And so my third duty was to teach research methodology. So those were my three duties: to interact with the musicians and dramatists, do research into the Fulani flute, and research methodology, I would teach that to the students. In conjunction the students studied other disciplines like papers and letters, archaeology, photography, African music.
[tape runs out and is turned over]
YL:...the African musicians that were there, they consisted of different ethnic groups like Hausa, Yoruba, Nupe, Mugozawa [sp?]. There are over three hundred different groups in Nigeria...they all worked together there, the musicians. And I found out a lot of things about specifications of rhythms, like each group knew their own rhythms. Like the Lupe, they had certain rhythms and they had certain dance movements. The Lupe people danced like in slow motion, but the Mugozawa were very brisk, you see? Frenetic. And it was interesting to observe this, and I read into it why the musicians in America who are descendants of Africans, why they play differently in terms of descendency. It's just an idea, but I saw this for a fact, you know. It changed my precepts about the organization of composition, too. And one thing, a couple of things happened. Like, they would make xylophones. Now, on our instruments xylophones the lower notes are on the left. But they may have a lower note right in the middle, a higher one here, you know it's a different organization. And they could play them. So they had different concepts of the arrangement of tones.
SH: Oh yeah that's true. I used to have an mbira, and they moved towards the lowest note being in the middle and they'd both go out on the sides.
YL: Yeah, it's exciting isn't it? If you like music enough, it's fascinating.
SH: I remember I retuned it. It wasn't mine, it was this guy's who was sharing the apartment with me. And I retuned it to the octatonic scale that Stravinsky used.
YL: Is that right?
SH: It was a fun thing to do.
YL: Yeah, of course. I had another interesting experience. The director, he wrote some literature which depicted the life of a queen who ruled Northern Nigeria about three hundred years ago. Her name was Queen Amina. And we had to put on presentations for the convocations at the college, and he gave the script to the dramatists and myself, and asked us to write a musical based on this script, of this real-life queen. Now, the history goes, that when she ruled Northern Nigeria all the ethnic groups in the vicinity paid homage to her. The vassals would come and bring gifts, you see, and we had to depict this. So I had to go out into the bush, among these different ethnic groups, and get permission to record their music, and to come back and simulate it in the center. And the Mugozawa's music sounded like "Flying Home," you know? Like Lionel Hampton, it was amazing. [laughs] And sometimes I'd have to recruit musicians and bring them into the center to play there. But anyway, this experience, in this drama, and incidentally we took this drama to Sofia, Bulgaria, where the 28 nations were represented, it's called the Festival of Nations, and that was a grand experience for me, you know. Anyway, in the drama, the queen, someone stabs her and she dies, you see. And then there's a chorus, like in a Greek chorus. There's a chorus over on the side and they sing, to depict the sad aspect of her being killed. So me coming from America, I gave them a minor chord because we look at minor in Western music as sad. So I orchestrated this minor chord for them to sing, humming. And you know what? They kept changing it to consecutive fourths. Like if I'd have C, E flat, and G, it would wind up C, F, B flat. Intuitively they heard consecutive fourths as depicting minor, do you follow me? So that changed my concept, other cultures, they think differently about the implications of sound. And so it came to me that I can prescribe things differently than I've been taught. And I think that's another reason my composition has changed quite a bit. The conception that I don't have to follow given parameters anymore, I can look for other things. That has lots to do with The World at Peace and other things I try to do. That's how we learn, from observation. Because you see Islam teaches that, I mean the Holy Koran says that God gives knowledge to whom he chooses, so that tells me I should observe other people because they are creations of the Creator, and maybe I can learn something, do you follow me? That's the way I look at that.
SH: Adam [Rudolph] said that you have done a fairly large scale book.
YL: Yeah, I have, it's called... I don't have a copy here at this office. Do you play music?
SH: Well, when I'm asked that question by musicians my usual response is to deny everything.
YL: Oh, would you like a copy?
YL: I'll send you one.
SH: I actually have a friend who is a composer who was asking me about the Slonimsky book and he finally found it and he was very disappointed in it.
YL: In Slonimsky? That was one of the first of those kinds of books. It inspired me, of course. I'll send you a copy of it.
YL: You're welcome. Scales and Melodic Patterns.
YL: Adam and I, we're excited about The World at Peace because each time we perform it it takes on unexpected contours, exciting ones, though. Because we're constantly putting our thought and concern into the music. Like we performed it June 20th in Verona, it was different than when we recorded. I wrote some inserts that come in unexpected places, you know, which gives dimensions to the music. It's like looking though songs and you hear other songs, it's exciting.
SH: I have figured out, by the way, that you were destined to record with him.
YL: You did? What, before it happened?
SH: Right. What's the name of your publishing company?
YL: Uh, Farmer Music.
SH: It used to be Alnur.
YL: Well that's the BMI company.
SH: Now, if you do that backwards, Alnur. R U, N, L, A. Now what's that? Rudolph, 'n Lateef.
YL: [laughs] That's interesting! I hadn't noticed that. I have to run that by him. Thanks, I hadn't noticed that before. And I tend to look at some things backward, like this one....R-E-H-T-O-R-B is brother backwards, I got a friend in Germany, he ends his letters Rehtorb Martin, his name is Martin. Rehtorb, that means brother backwards. And Angels is Slegna, backwards. Slegna, is angels.
SH: And didn't you do something called "Sram," Mars backwards?
YL: Yeah, long time ago. "Sram," in 3/2. That was in the '50s, yeah, I did.
SH: Well, I'm going to get back to The World at Peace but I feel like I sort of went off on this tangent of education, we were still back in 1960 and I want to get back to that.
SH: Specifically Mingus and the people in that group. There was an article in the Village Voice recently where Ted Curson commented that when you joined Mingus that Mingus said "Oh, none of these robes, none of these robes" and you just looked at him and all of a sudden that was no longer an issue because he just didn't want to argue with you.
YL: You mean clothing?
YL: Yeah, I heard that story before, I don't remember that at all. I mean, I wore, you know, similar kind of clothes and maybe people had some apprehensions about me, but no one ever said anything to me. So maybe when I wasn't there someone spoke about it. That's the only way I can envision that that came up. Because no one said "Why do you dress that way?" or nothing like that. Do you follow? No one said anything to me, either Mingus or the trumpet player, no one.
SH: Mingus was supposed to be somewhat of an erratic person.
YL: Yeah, people say that. I think he was...he was a very warm person to me. I think he was an eclectic, innovative person. For example, maybe you've read about it before. There was one piece that we were playing of his, and there came a tenor solo, and there were no chords, and I say, "What are the chords?" you know, to the song. He said "I don't want you to know the chords." Instead, there was a drawing of a casket, do you follow? And I'm supposed to take it from there.
SH: Reminds me of some of Anthony Braxton's stuff.
YL: Oh yeah?
SH: All those little cryptograms.
YL: I haven't seen those. I've heard interesting things about him.
SH: And of course Dolphy, and Rahsaan Roland Kirk were in that group.
YL: Dolphy was an innovative person also, able to synthesize music as a result of what I call syncretic mental observations. For example, one night between sets at the Showplace we were outside on the street, I think it was Third Avenue in the Village. And he said "Yusef, you see that building over there?" It was a tall building and there was a light. "See, something's happening there." And then he'd say, "See that one over there? Something else is happening over there." Now that sends a message to me, how he's thinking. And if you listen to his playing, you can hear certain things in one area of the instrument and then, not simultaneously but right after that you hear something happening someplace else and this also happened, you can hear this in John Coltrane's playing. You can hear it going back and forth, it's like working on something in this corner of the yard and then moving over there to work on something else. Can you envision that in presentation of the structuring of...
SH: Oh, definitely...
YL: Yeah, that kind of thinking, you know?
SH: In New York, I don't know if you've heard of him, there's this guy, Charles Gayle.
SH: Tenor player, also plays piano and bass clarinet. And a good portion of what he does is contrasts between different areas of the horn.
YL: Yeah, see? [chuckles] Eric was into that back in the '60s, 30 years ago. [unintelligible]
SH: Oh, and one of the other things... you can go all the way Bach with that. That's how he can do those things, you know like the solo cello suites. And have it sound like there's more than one part going on.
YL: Hmm, okay.
SH: Dolphy and Kirk and you all played flute at a time when certainly there were other people playing flute, Sam Most...
YL: Frank Wess...
SH: ...Herbie Mann. But the three of you all did it in a completely different manner from what was happening in the mainstream, and all seemed to arrive at your styles independently. But I was wondering if in this brief period you ever had any kind of an influence on each other.
YL: Well, Sam...Sam Most influenced me to hum in the flute. He's the first one I heard do it. But then Mongo Santamaria told me it was over a hundred years old in Cuba. But nevertheless, he was the first person I heard do it. The three of us that you mentioned. Let's see, myself, Eric Dolphy and who else?
YL: Kirk. I think all three of us. I'm not saying there aren't others, I'm sure there was.
[interrupted by phone call]
I think, I know I do and I think they do also. Because I knew Eric quite well. We believe that the tradition of this music dictates that you sound like yourself. And that's what all three of us have tried to do, or trying, at least, I'm still trying to do that. And I believe that those masters like Coleman Hawkins, Lester Young, Charlie Parker. You know, Coleman Hawkins sounded distinctly different than Lester Young, same instrument. Charlie Parker sounded distinctly different than Johnny Hodges. I think that's the message, they were saying, "Look, you can sound like yourself." And I think those three flute players that you mentioned, they tried to sound like themselves. I think, because, that's tradition, once we lose sight of that, tradition's going to be lost. Once we become clones of each other, there's no tradition anymore. Or either tradition being replaced by clonism or something of that nature. I think that's why we sounded different, we wanted to sound different. Because that's the tradition that those guys left us.
SH: I guess part of that tradition is also that you have to extend whatever it is that you're working on. And I think one of the problems with the music scene right now is there are an awful lot of people whose goal is not to extend what they've learned, but to perfect what's already been done, and not go past it, because if they go past it then all of a sudden they're breaking rules.
YL: I think you're aware of something that's retarding the progress of music. I think you're right, I agree with you. Of course, I'm not here to condemn anyone for what they do, because that's not nice either, to condemn anyone. But it's just like the guy who carries the flag, you know? Those people who are involved in evolution, extending, as you say? They're carrying the flag. You have to decide whether you're going to carry the flag or just rest. Like Sonny Rollins says, "I'm not content to rest on my laurels." You only can develop one thing so far. Not like, those guys like Charlie Parker and Dizzy who played on "Shaw 'Nuff" and things like "I Got Rhythm," I don't know who can do anymore than they did with them. Do you?
YL: They wrung that stuff dry, man! You can try to walk in their footsteps and they still wouldn't be your tracks, you know. So, like Dizzy said, people should take what he's done and do something else. And that's true tradition. Tradition has never been to stay. Otherwise we'd still be playing ragtime or field hollers or something. It's the nature of music to change in time, you know, like ragtime, Dixieland, swing, you understand, I don't agree with all the names but this is what they've been called. Third stream, bebop, you understand? There's something else coming, still, as long as the planets are here and men are involved and engaged. So why should [????] remain the same, or we become museum pieces and things just stay fixed and you go back ten years to the same museum, the same statue is there. And music shouldn't be that way. If that were the case we'd still be playing baroque music, just Bach and Handel. What you going to do with the composers who came after? Beethoven? We wouldn't even appreciate Beethoven if things hadn't of moved from the Baroque era. So, that's the nature of evolution, that it changes. And you can only--during certain periods certain people develop whatever is happening to its limit. It's like, I read a book that said, "A genius opens a door, and when he dies he closes that door." You know, it's over! The Parker era was wonderful and I'm glad that I observed it. But it should only be a motivation to move, beyond, some other place. That's what Charlie Parker did, he moved to another place. He didn't play like Johnny Hodges. That's the message those guys told us, see, do it your way. And even, not Buxtehude--Boehm, Theobald Boehm, who invented this flute system, he says "A good musician is one who teaches himself something." He didn't mean teach what someone else is doing, if you play what someone else did, you're not teaching yourself, you're parroting. That's not real learning. It's a banking system of education, where you just pour what other people [did] into you and regurgitate. You haven't learned anything, you're like a parrot. That's the way I see it. Those aren't my words, they're, oh what's the guy that wrote Pathology of the Opressed [?], you know that book?
YL: That's not real education, to just become containers for other people's information. That's a sad day, if we start accepting that as evolution.
SH: I think one of the problems with education is that it started to get based around what you can test and what you can quantify, so that you can give people grades.
YL: In this school there are no grades.
YL: It's got division one, division two. Evaluations, that's all, that's all they have to turn in. If you don't want an evaluation I don't even have to do that. No grades. There are other schools like Sommer Hill in England, there are no grades there either. There has to be an evaluation, because we couldn't have chemists writing prescriptions for people, unless we know that he knows what he's doing, of course, in that field. But when you get in the field of art it's kind of different I think.
SH: It becomes much more of a subjective thing.
YL: Yeah, right!
SH: You start trying to criticize a musician for what he's not instead of what he is.
YL: That's beautiful, that's right. That's beautiful, I like that.
SH: Well, it's not that original, the way I heard somebody put it once was, "Don't complain that your pork sandwich isn't chicken."
YL: [laughs] Yeah, you know what you're eating. I can buy that.
SH: Don't ask it to be what it isn't. I'm going to get back to 1960 or so because I noticed you had a Randy Weston Big Band date.
YL: Oh yeah, I remember that.
SH: He was the first guy that I was aware of, because I sort of came into the story late, who combined jazz and African music.
YL: Oh. They call it world music now, don't they?
SH: Well, he was very specifically interested in African music and still is, although that doesn't mean that he isn't interested in other things.
YL: Sure, sure.
SH: You know, spent a lot of time in Morocco.
YL: Yeah, yeah. I'm appreciative of what he's done. Did you have a question?
SH: Well, I haven't actually heard that date. I don't think it's in print at this point.
YL: I don't remember it either. I don't know what it sounds like. I don't listen to music too much now, other people's music. Every now and then I do.
SH: And you also were on a Blakey session in 1962 with a lot of African drummers.
YL: That's right. Yeah, I have that album.
SH: That seemed to be pretty far ahead of its time.
YL: Yeah, I think so. You see, a lot of freedom is expressed in that. You know like, here were the musicians in the studio, and there were no--if I remember--charts to play. All the music had to come from within. We didn't have to interpret any symbols that were on paper. If I remember correctly.
SH: Do you think there's a big structural difference between music that's predominately based on harmony and music that's predominately based on rhythm?
YL: Well, one answer is no. Because, there's a woman who wrote a book called Philosophy in a New Key, Susan [Langer?]. She said it's impossible for man to do anything that doesn't have form. I kind of lean with that. Certain people I should say, maybe. I think form is created, it's not preconceived, I can say that. When the music is spontaneous, I'm not talking about written composition. Then there's spontaneous composition, certain people can pull that off. Like, one night working at Slug's, I don't know if you remember that place.
SH: No, I don't remember the place, but I know recordings from it.
YL: Okay. And the group was Hugh Lawson and myself, Cecil McBee, and Roy Brooks. And we played our charts, you know, that we had. And then, the idea came to me I said, "Let's play that purple light over there," there was a purple light over in the corner. And we played it. And it was an interesting composition. So that shows you that musicians are capable of creating form that's not preconceived. Certain musicians, certain groupings.
SH: Of course it helps, I guess, that they've worked together, they're used to reacting to each other.
YL: Yeah, it's based on that type of association. It's like John Dewey says, you can't separate art from experience. So if you had a certain experience that would merit you doing certain things. I think that's what that's about.
SH: When you started recording for Impulse! it seemed like your musical expression got freed up a lot compared to what you'd been doing before.
YL: Yeah, that was a period it was opening up, new things were opening for me. When I did the thing called "Gee Sam Gee" for Impulse!. That was a period when my mind was trying to find new parts of the forest, if you will. That's true.
SH: Was that....
YL: 1984, too, I remember.
SH: Right. Was that something that Bob Thiele specifically encouraged?
YL: No, Bob Thiele, he'd just sit back and let me do what I wanted to do, fortunately. I said I wanted to do that, and he said "Go ahead."
SH: That's a good producer.
YL: Yeah, hey, I like those kind of producers. Where you have freedom, you know? Express yourself.
SH: Sort of the opposite of that, it seems to me, was Creed Taylor.
YL: You think so?
SH: Well, that's the impression I get.
YL: Well, he was a different kind of producer. At least the little experience I had. I did the thing with Art Farmer.
SH: Right. Autophysiopsychic.
YL: That's one, yeah.
SH: Which, it had its good things in it, but it seemed to be less of your musical expression than most of the other stuff.
YL: It was a different ball game, yeah. Because he brought in an arranger and he brought another person, what was his name?
SH: Well, he had the violinist on there, Noel Pointer, and Eric Gale is the guitar player...
YL: No I mean, the writer, of the music.
SH: Oh...I don't remember.
YL: He...I remember a couple of albums, he had two different writers. I think he wanted to try the thing that they call fusion. And so I went along with it, you know. But fusion doesn't, as I understand it, it doesn't really attract me. It's not for me. I think it's okay.
SH: Psychicemotus was one of your Impulse! things.
YL: That's right, yeah.
SH: And that was the first of your album titles that was a new word that seemed to be a combination of other words. And that's something that you have gone on to do several times since then.
YL: Oh yeah, you remind me, hold your question, I have something to give you, I don't want to forget it.
YL: Let me go get it.
YL: That word ["autophysiopsychic"] came about as a result of my music being ill-defined. For example, the term 'jazz,' if you look in the 1972 edition of one of those mainline dictionaries, that defines the term as "to copulate." Other research I think is, Webster's Dictionary, that's the Random House dictionary 1972, first entry is "to copulate." Whic, is an insult to me, Duke Ellington, Dizzy Gillespie, etcetera. Webster's Dictionary, and I did this research around 1972, under Americanisms, defines the music as "discordant and noisy." That's an insult. Another dictionary, I don't know the name, Heritage maybe, defines it, says "music that is rhythmical." If that were true some of Prokofiev's music would be called jazz, but it isn't. And so on, there was a multiplicity of definitions, and ambiguities, some demeaning, so I felt a need for a word that more concisely defined what I do. So that's how this word "autophysiopsychic" came about, as a result of that strife. This word, if you look at it, it's self-explanatory. "Auto" means self, "physio" means the physical, the instrument, the body, "psychic" means the mind and the soul. So it simply means music that comes from the physical, mental, and spiritual self. Physiopsychic music. When I play someone else's music, for me, that's an autophysiopsychic interpretation of someone else's music. So I felt a need to redefine, well to remove, that term ["jazz"]. So that's how that word came about. And "psychicemotus" is another word that something means, it means the psychic and the emotions, the mind and the emotions, that's all that it means.
SH: Whenever you label something you're doing something dangerous, because you're defining it and a definition also is a restriction.
YL: You mean any definition?
SH: Any definition. You say what something is, you're saying what it isn't.
YL: Yes, okay, I'll buy that. So?
SH: Well, I specifically bring this up with your music because there are some publications which say, some of the later stuff you did on Atlantic, like Nocturnes, or Meditations, or Encounters, that, well, this isn't jazz, it's New Age.
YL: I didn't say that.
YL: I never said that.
SH: Oh, no, you never did, but these publications say that, as though that's a way to dismiss it, "It's not what we want it to be. It's not jazz, it's New Age." And therefore if it's not jazz, by their definition it can't be good. It's only New Age, it's merely New Age. They use New Age as a term of dismissal.
YL: Dismissal of jazz.
SH: No, of your music in that period for not fitting their definition of jazz.
YL: This is interesting, I'm going to really get this. You're saying, the jazz connoisseurs?
YL: Dismiss my music, because why?
SH: They dismissed the things that you did for Atlantic in the '80s, by calling it New Age. And New Age has a bad reputation, because of what some of the people who get categorized as New Age do. And it seems to me that they had no idea what you were doing. It wasn't what they were used to you doing...
YL: That's true.
SH:...and it confused them.
YL: The listeners or the people who sell the music?
SH: The listeners. Well, these listeners who were trying to write about it.
YL: Oh, the listeners who were trying to write.
SH: If they hear something that they associate with a different form of music that they don't like, you know, it has a different rhythmic sense, it's much more peaceful. And without evaluating the music on its own merits, they put it into this other category that they dismiss automatically.
YL So in a sense are you saying that they won't accept new changes.
SH: Right. And part of the problem is that they're, you know, when they try and label the music, to say what kind of music it is, the labels that are available to them inhibit their willingness to listen to what the music actually is. Because, well I mean, you even won a Grammy in the New Age category. To me, that was a classical composition if anything.
YL: A friend of mine told me that too.
SH: And Nocturnes especially, to me, I don't know how much improvisation there is in it, but it has a sort of, a gravity to it, that makes it seem much more composed. I mean even in the sense of the word composed not meaning writing but in meaning very settled within yourself. And just because this is not the effect that people expect from jazz they're dismissing it as not being good jazz, without even taking into consideration the fact that well, maybe that's not what you wanted to do that day.
YL: Yes, yes. That's unfortunate, isn't it?
SH: And the whole problem is that the labels, you know, whatever you name something sets up expectations for it.
YL: Ah. That's marketing, yeah. Well you know, during that period I would take the finished product to Atlantic and then the producer would say "What have you got this time, some more of that classical music?" He'd say "What should I call it?" I'd say "I make it, you sell it," you know. They have a real problem with that.
YL: You see they started something that's gone haywire, it's like creating a Frankenstein monster. The music is evolving from where it was and when it gets there, they don't know what to do with it because it's not like the stuff that was here. See, had they just began with putting the music under the composer's name they wouldn't have that problem.
YL: Just, Yusef Lateef. Monk. Instead of jazz, third stream, swing. All those terms, and they're turning back on them now. They don't know how to market them. And people are, they're moving different places. So it's their own fault, you know they... like my mother said, you create your bed, hard bed, you have to lie in. So they started that. I didn't. I didn't start labeling music.
SH: It's the danger of labels.
YL: Danger of labels. That's right.
SH: I do want to talk about that section, that period of your music. Because it seems to be one that gets overlooked, and yet it seems to me that that was a period when maybe you didn't work as much or record as much but what you did do was very concentrated.
YL: Yeah, that was an interesting period. I thought that I didn't want that constant metric you know [YL human beat boxes for a second], so I didn't use any drums. And that changed the gravity, as you say, of the music. No drums, no constant pulse.
SH: And you also began playing your own keyboard parts.
YL: That's right, that was new for me. That's--you know Horace Silver's music, I think, one reason that it was very significant is because he was the pianist, "Senor Blues," and he put things just where he wanted them. You can hear it in the music. And that's what I tried to do, on the keyboard parts. I wanted to hear certain tones, at certain times, concisely. Let me say it this way: I started relinquishing those forms of like G minor to C. I might want to hear an E and an F sounding, a minor dyad there. I know this is loaded, what I'm talking about now, but what I see is, I've become fascinated with intervals. To create music opposed to--in school they teach you intervals for dictation, for sight singing, it enables you to copy down melodies from records, by knowing intervals. But I think the study of intervals and the utilization of intervals, groups of particular intervals, to compose, to spontaneously play music, is a new field. And I began to utilize this idea. You know, there are times when I may just study minor thirds, [if] not minor thirds, minor seconds. Only those two kind of intervals. You understand?
SH: Well, I know that when I was talking to Adam he was talking about triple diminished...
YL: Triple diminished...
SH:... and I said "What is that?" and he said "You'll have to ask Yusef to explain it."
YL: Yeah, well that's, you know, guys were playing the double diminished during the '60s and '70s. You know about double diminished, you know there are only three diminished chords...
SH: Would it be a diminished chord with a diminished seventh? What?
YL: You mean double diminished? It's a full diminished chord like C, E flat, G flat, A. B double flat.
SH: Yeah, okay. So it's a diminished chord with a diminished seventh, right?
YL: Yeah. That's one diminished. That's four notes. Then the other two are found within a half-step apart. Like B D F A flat, and B flat D flat E, G. Those are the four diminished chords. So guys were, beautiful musicians like Sonny Stitt, were playing double diminished through the '60s and '70s. And so it came to me, "there's another diminished chord. No one's playing triple diminished." And so I started constructing triple diminished patterns, which is the synthesis of the three diminished chords. And the way you do that, is you take one note from the first diminished, and you take one note from the second diminished, followed by a third note from the third diminished. Then you go back to the first diminished and get a note you haven't used, do you follow? Then you go to the second and get a note you haven't used, and then to the third, a note you haven't used, that's six. And you go back to the first, get a note you haven't used, to the second one you haven't used, to the third one you haven't used, that's nine different tones. And then back to the first one, get the last note you haven't used, then the second and third. You wind up with a twelve-tone row that's also a triple diminished. See, that's different than just a twelve-tone row, it's triple diminished too. Do you follow? And of course, you have to find ways, if you're going to use them, to play spontaneously, you have to know how to do it, you have to think how to do it.
SH: Right. You have to practice it enough that it's almost intuitive.
YL: That's right, yeah, that it's almost intuitive, just as easy as playing a C scale or something. And it can be done. Because....and there are different ways, like here's a triple diminished scale going up [plays the piano]. Going up. And down it goes... That's a simple one, because it's whole step, whole step, half step, whole step, whole step, half step, and it gives you a triple diminished, scale-wise. But then are the ones with the large intervals, those are the dynamic ones. Where you play a C here, then a major seventh B, then a B flat down here to the third diminished. That's a dynamic sound. When you learn how to play those, it sounds like something else, it sounds like elephants or something. [He sings a short example], you know? Eric Dolphy could play things like that. I never analyzed to see if he was playing triple diminished. But, yeah, me and Adam, he likes that, I like it too. And then the hexatonic scales have tremendous output for composition and performance. And there are only four hexatonic scales, they're six note scales. And when you play them...
SH: And how are they divided up?
YL: Half step, minor third, half step, minor third, half step, minor third. Like C, C sharp, E, F, G sharp, B, C. And then when you play them, down a half step, one-two-three times, there are only four. That's all there are. If you go down another half step it'll be the same as the first one. I call it 'the fifth scale' sometimes. And then you learn how to play the hexatonic scale vertically, opposed to linear. Like, to play it vertically, it requires you to play fourth, minor third, fourth, minor third, fourth, minor third, fourth minor third, and you reach the octave. So you learn how to play the hexatonic scales linear, and vertically. Then there are other utilizations of the hexatonic. It's a funny scale. But it keeps yielding. One of my students, I call him the Hexatonic Master. He plays guitar. He really knows how to play it in different ways that are provocative. And his composition sounds so personal. Beautiful.
SH: Are there any of your students who I might of heard of? Is Ralph Jones one of your students?
YL: Well, we studied, he's more a colleague, we have the kind of relationship that me and John Coltrane, we studied together. He hasn't studied formally with me. We studied together, he and I. I'll tell you about some students, oh, one who has left, Tony Beaudry. He lives in Amherst. He played with, goes out some times with the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra. He can really play those concepts we were speaking of. Let me see who else. Oh, there's an old pianist, I can't think of his name. He plays with a group. Oh, this student now, I just recorded him, did I tell you about Alex Marcelle?
YL: ...He's from the Bronx. He studies classical music. He can play triple diminished in one hand and a nine-tone row in the other hand. Because he studied Bach Inventions, you know...
YL:... he has that dexterity. I just recorded him, an album called the Sonata Fantasia, and the graphics are being done now.
SH: Is that on YAL?
YL: It'll be on YAL, God be willing. I think it's very interesting. And he goes to school here. You'll be hearing from him. He studied with Barry Harris, too.
SH: What got you to start your own label?
YL: Well, let's see. What's the answer to that?
SH: I think you did it in, '92 was the first recording?
YL Yeah, I think it was '92. Well, after I finished...well, I came from Africa in '81, right? Not '81, '85. I made this album, the Little Symphony..May God bless his soul, Nesuhi Ertegun, I sent him a tape. He liked it. It resulted in Atlantic publishing it. It got a Grammy. They call it New Age. I didn't know nothing about that New Age. I'd been in Africa. I still don't know what it means. So after the Grammy, they offered me a contract for three years, so I accepted it. So for '85, '86, '87, '88 I recorded for Atlantic. You were talking about Nocturnes? That period. And after the contract was over, they didn't ask for another one, you know. So I said, and I had ideas, about music. So I said, "I'll form my own company." And that's why I did it, so I could get my ideas out, share them with the world. To the extent I can get them to them. So I started the company then. And I've been producing, I have about 17 CDs now.
SH: That many. Wow.
YL:...in the last five years. I've done about two and a half a year, two and a quarter a year, something like that. I have about 17 CDs. This will be 18, the one I just finished. The problem is getting distribution.
SH: Right. I know the only one that I've gotten is Woodwinds.
YL: No kidding.
SH: Which is a pretty amazing record.
YL: Well thank you, I think it's an interesting record.
SH: One of the things I noticed is that a number of the ones that I've at least seen mentioned, you always pair yourself with another woodwind player, another saxophone.
YL: Yeah, well I started out that way, you know that used to be the thing, two tenors, remember, Gene Ammons, Dexter Gordon, you know.
SH: John Gilmore and Cliff Jordan.
SH: No, not Jordan. That other guy. Johnny Griffin.
YL: There was Lockjaw and Johnny Griffin too. Remember that one? Sonny Stitt, Gene Ammons. I said maybe I better bring that into play, so then I started calling tenor players, you know. And then I said, well, I have to do something else too. So then I've done some other things. What else?... I've done...yeah, Cantata. I don't know if you heard of that?
SH: No. I know that you did something on a different label that somebody told me I have to get, African American Epic Suite.
YL: Yeah, I did that before. Well, I did it for Cologne radio and then ACT plus Vision, we worked out a deal where they leased it from the radio station and produced the CD. You haven't heard that? Oh, I have to send you that too. Let me make a note of that. I really enjoyed doing that one. Adam is responsible for that. He met this producer in Germany and he suggested that the producer call me and commission me, and he did. He called me and asked me would I write a piece for orchestra, and I said let me think about it. Then I told him I'd like to write the African American Epic Suite. I'd thought about that, the sojourn of the African to America, when his experiences swing, from oh, about through the '60s until now. I thought that was a good thing to write on. And so it took me about six months. It was for orchestra and quintet, Adam [unintelligible]. And we went there, and it was certainly enjoyable. I remember going to the radio station at like 10 in the morning, rehearse and have then lunch, and then come back and rehearse for another couple hours, and then go home. And that went on about eight days, and then the concert was the eighth day. And we recorded about the third and fourth [unintelligible]. And it came off okay. So I'll send it to you. It's distributed by a company in Long Island now, called, is it Blue Jackel? It's owned by a guy who went to Berklee.
SH: The YAL stuff, obviously there's a lot of it that I don't have and I wouldn't expect you to send me that many CDs, but if you have some kind of discount price for the press, I'd love to get my hands on the ones I don't have.
YL: Would you write about them?
SH: Well actually, whether or not I put it into this article, I have a web page that I do, of reviews of CDs, so I'd put as much stuff as I can on there.
YL: Okay, well in that case I'll just send them to you, if you do that.
SH: That's a lot of CDs...
YL: Well, it's okay.
SH: Okay....you're giving me quite a package. I appreciate that.
YL: Well you're welcome.... But you have Woodwinds already, right?
SH: Right, I have Woodwinds.
YL: And The World at Peace, you have that?
SH: I have The World at Peace, yes.
SH: And I want you to talk about The World at Peace more, but there's two thing I wanted to get that we skipped over. You have a piece called "Blind Willie." Is that a reference to Blind Willie Johnson, the blues guitarist?
SH: Anything in particular you want to say about that?
YL: Well, the piece "Blind Willie" is from the album A flat G flat and C. Isn't it?
SH: It's something I don't have, so I just saw the title and wondered about it.
YL: It's from the album A flat G flat and C. Which outlines the dominant seventh chord, root-third-and-seventh, which is indicative of the blues. I was doing, that album focused on the blues. And I think that blues is one of the most productive musical forms that America has and that was created here. And I thought it was proper to name it after Blind Willie who was one of the kingpins of blues music in this country, along with Blind Lemon Jefferson, etcetera. So that's why I named it after him. Because [he was] there at the beginning, the inception, of this wonderful musical form, and that's how it came about. It's a tribute to him. That's all it was.
SH:....doesn't exist anymore, since Sonny [Sharrock]'s no longer with us. But they had a Shannon Jackson piece called "Blind Willie." Which is pretty different I would imagine, although I haven't heard yours.
YL: I see.
SH: But I'll just never forget the first time I heard Blind Willie Johnson playing "Dark Was the Night, Cold Was the Ground." I've never heard anything like it, still.
YL: I don't know if I've heard that.
SH: That's basically an instrumental, and he sort of hums or moans or whatever over it.
YL: He doesn't sing any words?
SH: Doesn't sing any words. And it's the sort of thing that sends chills up and down your spine.
YL: I hear you.
SH: There's one record you did for Atlantic when you were with them at first, Part of the Search. Which is a pretty unique record, in the sense that it's got the several different versions of "Oatsy Doatsy," in little fragments, and some stuff that's very much looking back towards R&B and the big band era...
YL: That's right.
SH: ...and yet it's also very forward looking in its structure, flipping through the radio stations and so forth.
YL: It was Joel Dorn's idea, which was a nice idea, he was good producer. I worked well with him. You're not asking me anything about that are you?
SH: Well, just, any comments you might have about it.
YL: Well I enjoyed it, it took me back in time to when I used to, when I was 17, 18 I used to listen to the radio in the evenings, on Saturday evening, I used to hear the Grand Old Opry, out of Tennessee.... it took me back to times that I would hear Jimmie Lunceford at the Greystone ballroom, which I told you about. Slim and Slam period to.... the piece about "Get That Dog Outta Here," Spike Jones. Do you know about Spike Jones?
YL: He was a very witty guy. Took me back to times of listening to him. So it was just looking backwards at the music that impressed me.
SH: And something else about that period I wanted to ask you about is you did a lot of session work under the alias Joe Gentle.
YL: Yeah, that was Joel Dorn's idea, he brought me into record with different people, and I guess that's the only way he could pull it off. He put that [?together?].
SH: I don't understand why, though. I mean, it was all on Atlantic, usually when people do that it's because they're on a different label.
YL: Yeah, I don't know. Maybe they wanted to spread me thinly, over the place, you know? It was one of his ideas, he can explain it easily, I'm sure. You have his number?
SH: No, I know his son is a publicist so I can maybe get it through him.
YL: Yeah, he'll tell you. I forget why he did that.
SH: And that was such an interesting range of people. I mean, just I noticed Little Jimmie Scott, Esther Phillips, Ray Bryant and Roberta Flack. And it's like well, that's a pretty broad range.
YL: Yeah. I remember one recording I played flute behind, Esther I think. It was on a session with the saxophone player who got killed? Who was the producer of that?
SH: ..see if I can find it quickly in here. This is the discography that Andrew Seidenfeld sent up.
YL: Oh, I see.
SH: Which is very daunting. I had about 20 of your records and realized that I was only scratching the surface.
YL: Oh, King, King Curtis.
SH: Oh, okay.
YL: He called me in to do that background on that with her. And as you know that's part of your livelihood in New York, recording, you know, sessions. If you're gonna survive.
SH: And that was an amusing alias. Of course you had an album called The Gentle Giant.
YL: Yeah. That's right. That was Joe's idea too, The Gentle Giant. That's an amazing picture that photographer took. I liked that piece "Nubian Lady" [???] on there, with Kenneth Barron. Do you remember that?
SH: That's another one of the records that I haven't gotten although I'm going to get that from Atlantic I think.
YL: Yeah, they have it, it was a nice piece.
SH: You've been recording for 50 years now, I guess I shouldn't be too surprised I don't have everything.
YL: Yeah, there's a lot of my notes out there...[unintelligible]
SH: Well, I know you've got an appointment...
YL: I pick my son up at two, I have about three or four minutes, though...
SH: Okay, well, if there's anything that I haven't gotten to, I know I've covered all the points I'd figured out in advance.
YL: You have, you've gotten your points, okay. I can't think of anything. You mean, about, The World at Peace?
SH: Right, I would like to talk about that some more.
YL: That album showed me that the idea of the syncretic approach to composition can be very significant. You know, syncretic meaning, the combining of unrelated things, which the word implies. But it shows you that many things that you think that are unrelated are related, in the final analysis. Like for example, six pieces on the album were composed like this. "Ramifications" is one, "A Feather in a Bright Blue Sky." For example, I recall Adam and I, we would agree that the composition would be, maybe 19 measures long, in a certain tempo, did he tell you about this?
SH: He told me a little about it, yes.
YL: Does this sound familiar?
SH: I found it hard to believe that [you] could work that way.
YL: Yes, well we tried it and it worked. And, for example, I would write the parts for the harp, myself, the other woodwind player, the trumpet, and then Adam would write the parts for the vibraphone, the bass, the violin, the cello and tuba. And rhythm. Not knowing what each other were going to write. Only knew the length, [and the] meter signature. And it's unusual sounding music. That shows you that syncretic approach to composition works. Our minds were unrelated in regards to the particular composition, and yet when brought together they formed something unique. And we did six compositions like that. And then, the other interesting thing that I was fortunately permitted to do was the things like "Chaos Number Three," "Beyond Futility." Those pieces were gleaned from the idea of chaos. You know, the chaos concept is floating around now.
SH: Right. The interesting thing about it being that chaos is not really chaotic.
YL: Isn't that interesting? No matter how chaotic you try to be it's not.
SH: Right, there's still order there.
YL: There's still order. And that's fascinating. So that's how those came about. So, it's part of striving to evolve what I do, and Adam's the same way. So that's about all I have to say.
SH: Okay, well, that's quite a lot, and I appreciate it.
YL: Oh, you're welcome.
- Steve Holtje
Mr. Holtje is a Brooklyn-based composer, poet, and editor. His song cycle setting five of James Joyce's Pomes Penyeach can be heard here.
The first part of this article was adapted from Mr. Holtje's entry on Yusef Lateef in MusicHound Jazz: The Essential Album Guide. He apologizes for not including Mr. Lateef's most recent recordings, and hopes to acquire them and do an update eventually.