The History of the Albums - n’241
In spite of the fact that he is a motto of opinions and that he does not have a discography that makes the unaminity, Yusef Lateef is a great figure of jazz because of his musical openness and his atypical side. This composer and multi-instrumentalist is a jazzman of reference who often swam against the current of what he was doing, bringing new sounds by exploring the music of the Middle East and Asia, being one of the first world music artists even before this term existed. Today we will study with the help of his masterpiece Eastern Sounds how Yusef Lateef came up with a new concept, traveling through the East and giving birth to one of the precursor albums of Spiritual-Jazz a few years before its time, that is to say before John Coltrane and his A Love Supreme (1965) (and even Jazz-Fusion). It is also an opportunity to immerse oneself in an extraordinary work that is now engraved in the history of music, beyond Jazz.
Originally from Tennessee and born in 1920, he spent his childhood and early adult life in Detroit. A basic saxophonist, Yusef began his career after studying in swing orchestras in the late 1930s. It is only from the late 40s / early 50s when we find more traces when he worked for Kenny Burell or Dizzy Gillespie. Since he stayed mainly in Detroit and gradually continued his studies, Yusef took a long time to really get his career off the ground. In fact, he progressed at his own pace, spending his life and beliefs in property, converting to Islam, getting married and integrating into the Ahmadiyya Muslim community. It is only in 1957, at the age of 37, that he began to perform with a series of albums for Savoy Records, Verve Record, Argo, New Jazz and Prestige. Although he already had a musical opening incorporating more foreign sounds, the first works on Hard Bop and Modal bases as leader of Yusef Lateef remain more or less forgettable. In the 60's, one can feel a constant progression when Yusef Lateef starts directing his works towards oriental sounds and when he starts playing several different instruments.
However, he reached his culmination with the phenomenal album Eastern Sounds, released in 1964, when he was 44 years old. Moreover it was far from being the end of his career, on the contrary we were perhaps only halfway there. Eastern Sounds defies everything we've ever heard in previous jazz masterpieces, finding a place for itself among those same references. Imagine the modernism and novelty of this album when it was released. Now imagine that it was recorded in 1961, 3 years earlier. It's just unbelievable. As I said in the introduction of my review, Eastern Sounds can be considered as one of the precursor records of Spiritual-Jazz, Jazz-Fusion and Global-Jazz thanks to the incorporation of oriental structures, sounds and instruments. In reality it is
mostly a Hard Bop/Post-Bop album that revolves around Modal and/or Oriental structures. We were only at the premise of all that will come afterwards, however it is important to pay homage to Yusef Lateef for all that. Accompanied by Barry Harris, Ernie Farrow and Lex Humphries in quartet formation, it is above all the multi-instrumentalist and conductor Yusef Lateef who clearly leads the dance with the use of his tenor saxophone, alternating with the oboe or the xun. If Eastern Sounds remains to this day his work is successful, it is not only the introspective success of some of his compositions, it is simply because it has an exemplary content, an avant-garde vision and a consequent originality for the time. Even today, when you listen to it, this album exudes something different and unique. There is an embracing melancholy and warm melodies that puts you in a comfort that intertwines with the contribution of sounds you are not used to hearing. It is tender and passionate, like a peaceful but never boring journey.