Morning Music: Yusef Lateef

Cry! -- Tender - Yusef LateefIn the early 1970s, the great jazz musician Yusef Lateef produced a number of wonderful albums with the equally great jazz pianist Kenny Barron. Like all of Lateef’s career, it defies easy categorization. But his special interest in eastern music with its modal melodies give a lot of his work a classical feel. It’s the same thing that you hear in Bill Evans’ later work. The connection, of course, is Debussy — who was interested in a lot of the same music.

So I was interested to come upon the following video from 1972. They are playing with Bob Cunningham (bass) and Albert Heath (drums). And they are doing the Jerome Kern song, “Yesterdays” — from the Broadway musical Roberta (starring Bob Hope in the original cast). Lateef did it originally (On oboe!) back in 1959 on his album, Cry! — Tender. It’s a good song to do, because harmonically, it is fairly simple — perfect for the kind of music he does. And he begins and ends the song with an improvisation based on Debussy’s solo flute piece, Syrinx. It’s lovely:

2 thoughts on “Morning Music: Yusef Lateef

  1. Thank you for making that available. The song is a favorite of mine and that version was just sublime. I once had the occasion to speak with Bill Evans who had just finished a solo recital at UCLA and he talked about the influence of Debussy and Ravel on his playing. I believe Dave Brubeck also was a fan of them. Music like this always gives me hope for mankind because if we can create beauty like this we should be able to create a better world for all. But I am hopelessly naïve. Thank you again for this; it is beautiful.

    • It is important that we stay naive enough to be hopeful. I hate it when people use cynicism as an excuse for doing nothing.

      That is cool about Evans! Based upon videos I’ve seen, it seems that there were a lot of jazz greats you could meet because they were playing in very small places. I remember a couple of years before he died, Stan Getz played a very small winery near me. Jazz is really interesting in that the audience is small, but generally intense. One of my complaints about classical music is that most people don’t appreciate it — it just seems “nice.”

      There’s no doubt that Brubeck was classically inspired, but I’ve never really heard impressionistic influences. Just the same, I’ve had a tendency to minimize him for unfair reasons, so I haven’t listened to as much of his work as I ought to.

      Anyway, I’m glad you liked it. I’m trying to avoid being boring. And when I found this tune, I knew I had to use it.

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