Saxophonist Yusef Lateef dies at age 93 in Massachusetts
SHUTESBURY, Mass. — Grammy-winning musician and composer Yusef Lateef, one of the first to incorporate world music into traditional jazz, has died. He was 93.
Lateef died Monday at his home in Shutesbury in western Massachusetts, according to the Douglass Funeral Home in Amherst.
Lateef, a tenor saxophonist known for his impressive technique, also became a top flutist. He was a jazz soloist on the oboe and played bassoon. He introduced different types of flutes and other woodwind instruments from many countries into his music and is credited with playing world music before it was officially named.
“I believe that all humans have knowledge,” he said in a 2009 interview for the National Endowment for the Arts. “Each culture has some knowledge. That's why I studied with Saj Dev, an Indian flute player. That's why I studied Stockhausen's music. The pygmies' music of the rain forest is very rich music. So the knowledge is out there. And I also believe one should seek knowledge from the cradle to the grave. With that kind of inquisitiveness, one discovers things that were unknown before.”
As a composer, he created works for performers ranging from soloists to bands to choirs. His longer pieces have been played by symphony orchestras throughout the United States and in Germany. In 1987, he won a Grammy Award for his new age recording “Yusef Lateef's Little Symphony,” on which he played all of the instruments.
In 2010, he was named an NEA Jazz Master, the nation's highest jazz honor.
Lateef had an international following and toured extensively in the U.S., Europe, Japan and Africa. His last tour was during the summer.
He held a bachelor's degree in music and a master's degree in music education from the Manhattan School of Music, and from 1987 to 2002, he was a professor at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst, from which he was awarded a doctorate in education.
He created his own music theory called “Autophysiopsychic Music,” which he described in the NEA interview as “music from one's physical, mental and spiritual self, and also from the heart.”
Born William Emanuel Huddleston in Chattanooga, Tenn., in 1920, Lateef moved with his family to Detroit five years later. He became acquainted with many top musicians who were part of Detroit's active music scene and by age 18 he was touring professionally with swing bands led by Lucky Millinder, Roy Eldridge, Hot Lips Page and Ernie Fields.
In 1949, he was invited to perform with the Dizzy Gillespie Orchestra, which was playing be-bop. He took the name Yusef Lateef after becoming a member of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, and twice made the pilgrimage to Mecca.
He became a fixture on the Detroit jazz scene in the 1950s leading his own quintet. In 1960, he moved to New York and joined Charles Mingus' band. Lateef would go on to perform with some of jazz's best talent, including Cannonball Adderley, Donald Byrd and Miles Davis.
Lateef first began recording under his own name in 1956 for Savoy Records, and made more than 100 recordings as a leader for such labels as Prestige, Impulse, Atlantic and his own YAL. His most enduring early recordings included such songs as “Love Theme from Spartacus” and “Morning.”
In the 1980s, he taught at a university in Nigeria, where he did research into the Fulani flute.
Lateef formed his own label, YAL Records, in 1992, which released an extended suite, “The World at Peace,” co-composed with percussionist Adam Rudolph. He also wrote a four-movement work for quintet and orchestra, “The African American Epic Suite,” which was commissioned and performed by the WDR Orchestra in Germany in 1993.
He is survived by his wife, Ayesha Lateef; son, Yusef Lateef; granddaughter and great-grandchildren.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Starkey: Vanilla Mike too polite on officiating
- Cubs’ 3-run, 9th-inning rally upends Pirates
- Fleury’s performances have Penguins still believing vs. Rangers
- Rossi: Rutherford falling apart, too
- Super-agent Boras says Pirates will have opportunity to re-sign Alvarez, Cole
- Penguins Insider: Series has enough gamesmanship
- Penguins seek way to improve line changes
- $3.5M glass sculpture’s story begins, ends in rural community of Dunbar
- Pittsburgh union serving TV, film production looking for lots of help
- Steelers open daunting season at Patriots, play 5 prime-time games
- Alle-Kiski roundup: Freeport baseball team downs 1st-place Deer Lakes