Yusef Lateef


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AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek

Dr. Yusef Lateef may have great and valid objections to the usage of the term "jazz" when it comes to discussing his music. The common vernacular, however, has no terminology for being able to assimilate the music his gorgeous signature creates. Metamorphosis is particularly difficult in terms of terminology because other American musical genres scream out for inclusion in his tomes, such as funk, soul, R&B, and, of course, the blues. But for the sake of honoring Dr. Lateef's music and wishes for it, we will refrain from using those terms to describe the music on Metamorphosis, which is an integrational, even visionary, elongation of the path of American Black music as it enters into dialogue rhythmically, melodically, and harmonically with the great traditions of the East and of Africa in particular. On the opening track, as Kamal Sabir turns the backbeat over and over, filling with small dances and flourishes, Avery Sharpe digs for the groove, floating it there, as an article of engagement, and Lateef blows in rhythm but off beat, articulating a melodic idea that changes on every measure, just enough to create a slippery intervallic syntax for the trio. On other tracks, Dr. Lateef moves toward the other instruments in his repertoire such as Turkish flute, Mey, Chinese temple flute, Kalimba, and bamboo flutes, such as on "The Shape of Feeling," where he combines two different sets of harmonic invention to create a melody from the middle. The set closes with the opus "Biography of a Thought," with a series of trills articulating its opening theme that Lateef dances all around in counterpoint. As Sabir and Sharpe -- a determinedly visionary rhythm section if there ever was one -- slip through the middle of Lateef's improvising, they begin to stretch the time out, leaving him more room on the end of a line for the breadth of his ideas. There are modal moments in the off intervals, and accents on the front side of Lateef's ribbon-like playing. This is one of the finer efforts on Dr. Lateef's label. We can only hope for many more like it.

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