In 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: