Yusef Lateef, The Legendary Jazz Musician Who Grew Up In Detroit, Dies At 93
December 24th, 2013, 8:48 AM
The YouTube video shows Mr. Lateef's 1969 album, "Yusef Lateef's Detroit: Latitude 42 30 Longitude 83," which contained selections named after Detroit locations, such as "Bishop School," "Belle Isle" and "Eastern Market." The song on the video is "Russell and Eliot," an intersection north of Eastern Market which no longer exists.
In the Free Press, Mark Stryker pays tribute to Yusef Lateff, the internationally renowned musician who grew up in Detroit and attended Miller High School and Wayne State University. Mr. Lateef died Monday at his home in Shutesbury, Mass, near Amherst. He was 93.
Mr. Lateef was a tenor saxophonist, oboist, flutist and composer. His 75-year odyssey in music took him from the jazz clubs of Detroit to the fields of Africa, the world of classical music and the halls of academia.
Mr. Lateef’s reputation in jazz was as broad as the shoulders of his towering frame. He gained notoriety as early as the 1950s in Detroit for his influential experiments with what would come to be known as “world music,” grafting the exotic instruments and influences of Africa and the Middle and Far East onto the trunk of modern jazz. His seminal embrace of Eastern scales would influence John Coltrane’s later innovations.
Born William Emmanuel Huddleston in Chattanooga, Tenn., on Oct. 9, 1920, and known on some early recordings as Bill Evans, Lateef moved with his family to Detroit when he was 5. (He changed his name when he converted to Islam in 1948.) Lateef started on alto sax, before switching to tenor while a student at Miller High School. Fellow saxophonist Lucky Thompson recommended him to bandleader Lucky Millinder in New York in 1946, and by 1948, he was working with Dizzy Gillespie’s pioneering bebop big band.
Mr. Lateef returned to Detroit in 1950, where he soon began studying composition, theory and music history at what is now Wayne State University and working in local clubs. By the mid-’50s he was studying with classical saxophone guru Larry Teal and leading one of the top bands in the city. Mr. Lateef mentored an army of young musicians on the city’s explosive modern jazz scene, among them pianist Barry Harris, trombonist Curtis Fuller and drummer Louis Hayes. He recorded in the late ’50s for East Coast labels Savoy and Prestige, his band driving to New York for the weekend to record.