Yusef Lateef

The Complete Yusef Lateef

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When Yusef Lateef left Impulse! for Atlantic in 1967, he was transitioning his musical impulses once again. Lateef has, from the beginning, been an artist for whom a holistic approach to the musical aesthetic has been paramount. The title of this album is misleading in that it may suggest to the casual viewer a retrospective. It is anything but. Lateef is referring here to the complete in the sense that it contains the completeness of his musical vision at a given time. Lateef's Atlantic period has been unjustly undervalued, and this recording is a case in point. With a lineup consisting of Lateef on oboe, flute, saxophones, and even vocalizing, Detroit's venerable Roy Brooks on drums, bassist Cecil McBee, and pianist Hugh Lawson, the surface would point to a straight-up though adventurous "jazz" date. It's not. Lateef engages deeply in spiritual music here on the modal, Eastern-flavored opening track, "Rosalie," and shifts immediately to playing the blues on "In the Evening." (How many cats can you say play the blues on the oboe?) In 12 bars, Lateef phrases against the backbeat and holds McBee in a corner long enough to stride out of a series of minor-seventh changes. On "Kongsberg," the band moves into a second-line New Orleans R&B groove, with Lateef blowing a big, fat, dirty yowl. It would be perfect for bar walking except that in some places it's too quick and in others it's too tender. "Stay With Me" is a beautiful ballad driven by McBee's droning pizzicato lushly followed by Lateef's flute playing melody. Lawson comps in between notes for a more exotic feel, and Brooks plays a series of subtle but shifting rhythms in counterpoint to the changes. "Brother" is along the R&B trail once again, but it's crossed with Lateef's own modal trademarks in ostinato and legato phrasing. The set closes with Lateef singing a broken, mysterious love song in true Paul Robeson fashion on "You're Somewhere Thinking of Me." With his strength as both a rhythmic and a melodic player, McBee once again leads the band through these spare yet knotty, elongated changes. The finger flute solo by Lateef stands in sharp contrast to his baritone vocals and makes for an eerie yet compelling end to an album that is as fine as any of his Prestige or Impulse! recordings.

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