Yusef Lateef


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If listening to modern Yusef Lateef in a cosmic and electronic setting is your thing, then Cantata may very well knock you out. However, despite Dr. Lateef's wide-ranging, creative vision, Cantata is a work with many interesting and even compelling elements, but ultimately just misses the mark because there's too much going on. For starters, besides his usual array of tenor saxophone, various flutes, koto, thumb piano, and a Korg-1 synth, there is a narrative (hence the title) and other vocals that make this project seem, at the very least, ponderous. Lateef and electronic composer Greg Snedeker took all the played music, sampled it through a TS-12 synthesizer, and then messed with it. Different timbral elements were discovered in the combining of sounds, and machine and percussive elements were altered to resemble not themselves so much as otherworldly sonorities. Once the entire Cantata was recorded, and with the narrative and vocals, it was taken from the TS-12 and recorded onto a Macintosh computer. Why? Other than the ghostly timbres that only electronic sound and manipulation can provide, there seems no reason. The piece itself is a long, meandering, ponderous work that touches everything from Debussy to Webern to new age music. Over 18 selections, this listener was hopelessly loss and, unfortunately, lacked the desire to try to find his way back in.

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