Yusef Lateef

Tenors of Yusef Lateef & Von Freeman

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Here's a tenor sax tandem unlike others of recent import. Lateef's burly, brawny tone contrasts with the tart/sour, bluesy ramblings of Freeman. They rarely play together, stepping aside for each other's musings to be clearly heard. There are many times when Lateef is obviously the more listenable of the two, and then there are times when, upon closer listening, you hear the uniqueness of what Freeman is laying down. The ever brilliant pianist John Young adds mightily to the session, while bassist John Whitfield and drummer Terry Morrissette seem to stand back and listen as the sounds unfurl. Immediately one notices that there are few recognizable melodies because the participants go straight into improvising. The kicker "Windy City" sets this pace -- a loose swinging vehicle where the bassist is playing twice the time as the drummer, an odd juxtaposition. Both saxophonists trade short bursts, and the difference between the two is easy to recognize. Lateef leads on the patented, easy-swinging, comfortable tribute "Freddie Webster" with Young's reverent, definitive brilliance shining through. Freeman takes his turn upfront on the 12-bar swinger "South Side," with Young's startling arpeggios present, prompting lengthy trading of fours between the tenors. A Latin bossa feel for "Swing Lee" has the two trading frequently, and on "Ike Day" even more so, with Freeman's bold and pronounced playing. "Quality Control" is a 12-minute, nonplussed, swing-based boxing match of sorts; it scores pretty evenly. Lateef goes it alone on "Delta Market Place," showcasing his undiminished power over the many years of his career. The musicians finally do some counterpoint fencing in the last half of the tribute to "King Kolax," which extends over ten minutes. They step up the energy, spurred on by a solo and more muscle flexing by Morrisette, with Whitfield's ostinato bass sounds serving as encouragement. It's an interesting excursion for these two saxophone colossi.

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