Category Archives: Yusef Lateef

Nippon Soul: Cannonball Adderley Sextet

CA Nippon Soul

Japanese audio equipment and studios have earned an enviable reputation and a multitude of artists have recorded there. However, the first American jazz artist to make a live recording in the Land of the Rising Sun is believed to be Cannonball Adderley, as recently as the summer of 1963. Orrin Keepnews, obviously unaware of the sonic standards aspired to in Japan when he penned his original sleeve notes, writes: ‘Through the cooperation of Philips Records of Japan, obviously the possessors of equipment and engineering skills fully up to American standards, Sankei Hall became the scene of what is probably the first recording of American jazz artists in that country.’

These Tokyo concerts feature Cannonball and his brother Nat appearing with an excellent sextet alongside Yusef Lateef and Joe Zawinul with Sam Jones and Louis Hayes on bass and drums.

The performance opens with the title track, Nippon Soul, a fresh strolling blues composition written for the Japanese by Cannonball, who is on fine form on alto. Yusef Lateef then comes in on flute, which is overblown to great effect as his solo ends. Joe Zawinul offers a neat piano solo before the band reprise the head of the piece.

Easy to Love is an uptempo reading of the Cole Porter standard played hard bop style. Porter originally wrote the song for the hit musical Anything Goes but it was dropped due to the high notes which were difficult for male artists to hit. It was recycled into the 1936 film Born To Dance, where it was sung by Jimmy Stewart and Eleanor Powell. The original lyrics contained a couplet involving “…sweet to waken” and “sit down to eggs and bacon” but the likely implications of breakfast shared by an unmarried couple was too rich for the Hollywood censor and it was struck out to prevent outrage in middle-America. Billie Holliday recorded a notable version and it also appears on Charlie Parker with Strings.

The Weaver is the first of two Yusef Lateef compositions. The track is a blues dedicated to Lee Weaver, a close childhood friend of the Adderley’s. To these ears, this has a very early-60’s New York City feel and it is hard to imagine it having been written without that location in mind. By July 1963 Lateef had been working in Adderley’s band for nearly two years, a period which he later wrote of as allowing him the necessary time to aspire to lead in his own right again and to further develop his own musicianship.

The concise driving jazz tango that is Tengo Tango was recorded prior to the release of the album as a single and the sleeve confirms that the band liked to play it as a short piece without lengthy solos.

Come Sunday is a section from Duke Ellington’s seminal Black, Brown and Beige suite arranged by Joe Zawinul and it is a sensitive and relaxed number featuring a delicate duet between the pianist and bass player Sam Jones.

Finally on the original album version, Brother John is dedicated to John Coltrane and features composer Lateef on an Oboe played in a free sounding manner which melds sweet with sour flavours. The following YouTube file was uploaded by Brother John:-

To play, touch or click on the arrow.

My vinyl copy has the appearance of an original first pressing but closer examination of the sleeve and label reveal that it is actually a release made and sold by Fontana records. The guide to Riverside pressings on the London Jazz Collector website confirms that my copy was made at Philips’ Dutch plant and may well be of lower audio quality than one pressed in the UK. Caveat emptor as those crafty old Latin linguists used to write. I wonder how many original American pressings were imported to the UK prior to local release. Not a massive number, one would suppose?

CD copies also includes a brisk live version of Nat Adderley’s Worksong, which Cannonball introduces as a tune in the set by popular demand in acknowledgement of its local popularity.

Nippon Soul is a live recording that is well worth seeking out. The sextet are caught in the delivery of two excellent sets with both Lateef and Zawinul provided with a showcase for their talents courtesy of a very generous leader, whose own contribution is outshone by those of these two band members.

The band etc: Julian ‘Cannonball Adderley (alto sax); Nat Adderley (cornet); Yusef Lateef (flute, oboe & tenor sax); Joe Zawinuul (piano); Sam Jones (double bass); Louis Hayes (drums). Recorded: 14 & 15 July 1963. Live in Sankei Hall, Tokyo. Produced & recorded: Junat Productions. Sleeve Notes: Orrin Keepnews. Cover painting: Tom Daly. Cover design: Ken Deardoff. Issued as Riverside RLP 477 in 1963.

By using the search box at the top of this page you will be able to look at content from over 140 separate posts for views and reviews of work by numerous modern jazz artists.

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1984: Yusef Lateef

Yusef Lateef 1984

downwithit was partly inspired by Nile Rodgers. In his autobiography he writes that Chic started each project with something that he calls DHM (deep hidden meaning) to the fore. I’m not sure that there’s a unifying sense of DHM about Yusef Lateef’s Impulse album, 1984 but the title does have a hidden meaning which has nothing to do with George Orwell or the year 1984. If you stick with me all will be revealed at the end of the last paragraph.

Previous posts have confirmed that I regard Yusef Lateef as being amongst the great jazz woodwind players. I had been searching for this set on CD for some time and finally cornered it during a visit to New York last year at Frederick Cohen’s Jazz Record Center (which itself takes a bit of tracking down). Mr Cohen is the author of the first comprehensive Blue Note collectors discography ‘Blue Note Records: A Guide For Identifying Original Pressings. His premises are hidden away in an office building on W26th Street but are well worth seeking out. He a nice guy who was happy to have a chat and pose for a quick photograph. I departed happy and with my Japanese release of 1984, which cost me a very reasonable $18.99(£13.34 at today’s exchange rate)

Fred Cohen pic

Pic shows: Mr Fred Cohen of Jazz Record Center, NYC

Anyway, on to the album. It is something of a mixed bag and, in my opinion, would have benefitted immeasurably by some disciplined editorial oversight. Of course part of the thing about Impulse was that the artists had an unprecedented degree of control over their recordings and chances were taken. The title track, billed as ‘…a mythical trip to the future’ on the sleeve, is evidence of this. The notes explain that Yusef Lateef is playing within a 12 tone system of his own creation and that he is employing a range of instruments of an exotic and self-fashioned type. However, his experimentalism on this track doesn’t do anything for me and, to my ears, almost spoils a largely excellent set with its sonic meanderings which include squeaks and sub-vocalisations (which make reappearances albeit in a more restrained context on some of his later work on Atlantic). Oh well, I’m glad the future hasn’t turned out like this yet!

Try Love brings the listener gently back into the mainstream. Yusef plays oboe on this one and New Zealand pianist Mike Nock”s work is a delight, although some expressive drumming reminds us that this is 1966 and everything is up for grabs.

Soul Sister is a sophisticated up-town sort of a track on which Yusuf takes takes us strutting out led by his tenor saxophone. At 3.06 it is all too brief an excursion. You can have a listen courtesy of YouTube:-

To play either click on or touch the arrow.

Mike Nock’s Love Waltz closes the first side of the long playing record and it is a vehicle for his piano, with Yusef Lateef, generously giving the sideman an opportunity here and sitting out on this one.

The next track is yet another lapse in editorial judgement. One Little Indian actually opened side 2 of the original LP. It will be more familiar to UK audiences as the bewhiskered Michael Finnegan but in the USA it goes by the other title and it has attracted criticism because of racially offensive lyrics in several of its incarnations. We can be confident that Yusef Lateef was not seeking to be provocative here- but, in my view, it is a filler track at very best and probably should not have been included on the album release.

Happily, Listen to The Wind is another rather more listenable track starting with an ECMish introduction before Yusef shows he can play hard bop choruses as well as anybody. The tune then changes tempo again for a piano solo, with a reflective saxophone piece to close matters.

Duke Ellington’s Warm Fire is a delicious late-night track, played deightfully and conventionally before Gee! Sam Gee takes us back into restrained tone poem territory, with Lateef resisting temptations to take us on a sonic excursion.

The Greatest Story Ever Told is the theme tune from a then current sword, sandals and Bible epic of the same name. In 1961 Lateef had offered themes from Spartacus and The Robe on Eastern Sounds, an excellent set which I’ll take a look at here at some stage. Although this is not the greatest tune that Yusef ever recorded, it’s OK, with some pleasant flute playing.

Although I was delighted to get hold of 1984 and it is an album which has some strong playing on it, it is uneven. I rate it as an album for the completest collector rather than an essential purchase and two of the tracks disappoint massively. The sound quality is excellent throughout and although the cover does not say where 1984 was recorded, Rudy Van Gelder’s presence gives a clue- although this may be a false one, as reliable sources say that the set was recorded at Pep’s Lounge in Philadelphia, although the recording didn’t take place before a live audience. Cover photos are by Charles Taylor who I also mentioned in more detail here.

Yusef Lateef plays a King tenor sax on this set (doubtless the silver model with the under slung neck pictured on the cover). However, I have also seen another more recent picture showing his instruments featuring no less than six Selmer tenors (the Selmer Mark vi was the instrument favoured as first choice by most of the greatest players- and not so great as I owned one myself for many years).

The Band etc: Yusef Lateef (Tenor saxophone, flute, diverse wind instruments); Reggie Workman (double bass); James Black (drums); Mike Nock(piano). Recorded: 24 February 1965. Produced: Bob Thiele. Engineer: Rudy Van Gelder. Cover: Robert Flynn / Viceroy. Cover photography: Charles Stewart. Sleeve Notes: Bob Hammer. Released as Impulse AS84.

So what about the hidden meaning of the title? Well it is actually quite straightforward. This is Impulse release number 84. A is letter 1 of the alphabet and S is letter number 19- 11984- delete the first 1 and you get 1984. Simple really. Give yourself a round of applause if you stayed with things so far, and play the wonderful Soul Sister (again).

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Classic Albums on downwithit.info in 2014

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Happy New Year to all visitors, new and old. Here’s my 100th post on downwithit.

I still have an unfinished task from 2014 which is to look back at all the classic sets that I reviewed here in 2014. By classic I mean anything other than a new release so there are one or two sets from the present millennium included here. A quick count indicates that I wrote about 26 of these albums in 2014, so I think I can conclude that I wasn’t idle, especially given that I also wrote about a number of contemporary sets and offered up some live reviews.

What follows may be a bit of a trudge through a list, but I have linked to all the reviews and if any catch your interest, please click and take a look.

On NYD 2014 I started with a bang by taking a look at John Coltrane’s Blue Train, one of my all-time favorites that I urged everyone to obtain and listen to if they hadn’t done so already.

This was followed up by Lee Morgan’s The Sidewinder and a track that inspired numerous imitations.

My January postings dipped into dinner jazz in the form of Grover Washington Jr’s All The King’s Horses and British hard bop from the 1980’s UK jazz revival via Tommy Chase and Groove Merchant.

Thoughts of Tommy Chase led downwithit.info into fresh territory and I decided to devote some time to exploring the current scene, which was something that I really enjoyed during the course of 2014. If you want a recap of the newly released albums that I reviewed last year, they can be found here and my trawl of live performances is referred to here. I’m not sure if my ramblings have encouraged the purchase of a single album or attendance at any gigs but if they have, please leave a comment and let me know.

I wrote five reviews in February 2014 opening with Horace Parlan’s piano trio set Movin’ And Groovin’. I followed this up with Johnny Griffin’s Big Soul Band. I wavered about posting on that one because I thought that it was something of a departure from the classic small band context and that it would not fit- but it seemed to be OK and remains a popular review according to my stats.

Fred Jackson’s great Hootin”N Tootin’ was next up. At the time, I checked Wikipedia which did not give a date of death. Hopefully Fred still is with us and is enjoying a peaceful retirement at the grand age of 85 years old. If anybody knows more, please tell us.

A further less well-known Blue Note set, John Jenkins With Kenny Burrell was placed in the spotlight, before I took a look at Thembi by my favourite living saxophonist, Pharoah Sanders.

March 2014 saw me take an overdue look at Yusef Lateef (more to come in 2015) and Jazz Mood, his first set as a leader from 1957. The Cats, a fine session featuring John Coltrane followed and I made my first visit to a Grant Green recording on these pages with Grant’s First Stand.

In April, I brought news a a real gem: Heavy Sounds by Elvin Jones and Richard Davis, another set to listen to even if you have to beg steal or borrow. A slow journey north up the motorway system led me to grapple with Bobby Hutcherson’s Happenings. The same trip north gave me time to take a look at The Hot Club Of San Francisco’s Veronica and I got hold of a copy of Jimmy Smith’s lacklustre a less then incredible Softly As A Summer Breeze.

In May Sonny Clark’s Sonny Clark Trio was followed by another Sonny in the form of Sonny Rollins On Impulse, which sounds like a compilation album but isn’t. Later in the month, my local second-hand record store yielded up a copy of John Coltrane’s Ole.

I took another look at Grant Green with his lesser known Iron City, featuring a strong version of Hi-Heeled Sneakers, before returning to Blue Note and Harold Vick’s Steppin’ Out and later in September with Joe Henderson and Inner Urge.

I took the view that Archie Shepp and Dollar Brand’s Duet was slightly spoiled by Shepp’s poor sax technique on a couple of tracks, but I enjoyed Hank Mobley’s great Roll Call, Grant Green’s Green Street and Freddie Hubbard’s Ready For Freddie.

2014 was the year in which a bit of research yielded some more answers about Freddie Roach’s later years and I shelled out for a first pressing of All That’s Good which turned out to be much better than a shocking review suggested it would be.

I’ve already got a the first few reviews for 2015 in mind, so please come back soon and see what I’ve been listening to and remember that comments are most welcome.

One New Year’s Resolution– the quality of the photography at downwithit must improve. No excuses!

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Jazz Mood: Yusef Lateef

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One of the wisest, smartest moves that anybody can make when they want to get ahead with something is to get themselves a mentor. Dr Yusef Lateef passed away, aged 93, in December 2013. Amongst the many tributes and accolades, I noted one from a mentee who praised Dr Lateef as the person who he took inspiration from. It was none less than the great Sonny Rollins. Recommendations and endorsements probably don’t come any higher in this neck of the woods!

Yusef Lateef was on my list of artists to write about when I began to think about downwithit last summer. My dilemma has centred on where to start. My own introduction was via The Blue Lateef, an extraordinary set from the great man’s Atlantic years which began in the late 1960’s. I’ve already touched on that set here and I’ll be back again in due course.

Another entry point may have been to look at the series of sets from the early to mid 1960’s that came out on Impulse I’ll be going there later too.

Eastern Sounds is another magisterial performance that I’ll be back to. But as those of you who are still with me will already know, there’s only one real start- back at the start-line itself.

Jazz Mood was Yusef Lateef’s first set as a leader. Recorded in April 1957 with fellow Detroit musicians it features Curtis Fuller on trombone. In an amazing 39 minutes, Yusef offers a route map for his future development.

Metaphor opens matters and Yusef plays an opening phrase on what sounds like bag pipe drones (I assume to be the arghul referred to on the sleeve). The tune has a vaguely unsettling feel about it: perhaps the sort of thing that could accompany the scene setting opening of a film noir set in the Middle East. The scenario currently in my head would definitely be filmed in monochrome. The track features YL on flute. It follows (from YouTube). What do you think?

To play, click or touch the arrow.

Yusef’s Mood starts out by harking back to the 1940’s. The tune really swings but has a rhythm and blues edge which carries us into a fine bluesy tenor solo and some wonderful trombone from Curtis Fuller. There’s great interplay between the two soloists and, once again YouTube allows you to take a listen.

To play, click or touch the arrow.

There’s another particularly enjoyable version from the 1974 set Ten Years Hence, which was recorded live at Keystone Corner in San Francisco.

The Beginning is cool and enticing but is a little in the shadow of the other four tracks.

Morning is an exquisite performance featuring beautiful full-toned tenor saxophone played with great expression. I’m unsure whether the performer is reflecting on a long night or is contemplating a new morning full of expectation. I’ve not linked to it here but there are plenty of renditions currently on YouTube. The set closes with Blues In Space, which has a quirky sort of head (by which I mean tune). It’s 1957 and the composer is looking forward over the horizon to New York City in the 60’s perhaps? In 2014 that part sounds very dated but then an extended tenor saxophone solo saves matters. The piano is not massively to the fore on this set but Hugh Lawson is given the space for a fine short solo here.

So there we have it. Yusef Lateef’s first album as a leader. I have to admit that my copy is neither original vinyl, nor latter day CD, but one of 6 Classic Albums packaged together and available from your favourite online retailer for £14.99. Please forgive my transgression- but some sets are too good not to write about.

Dr Yusef Lateef’s informative website is here. There are links to obituaries where you can read about YL. While you are there, don’t miss the link to a couple of YL’s own essays, which offer a great insight into the ‘Gentle Giant’s’ own thoughts.

Deadline met, train to catch, post now, see you soon, downwithit

The Band: Yusef Lateef (Tenor saxophone, flute, arghul, scraper); Curtis Fuller (trombone, tambourine); Louis Hayes (drums); Hugh Lawson(piano); Doug Watkins (finger cymbals, percussion). Recorded: 9 April 1957. Produced: Ozzie Cadena. Released as Savoy MG 12103.

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downwithit.info: Welcome to the story so far

As 2013 comes to a close, a quick review of progress so far seems appropriate.

downwithit.info went live on 19th September 2013- just over 3 months ago.

Since then I’ve posted 25 items. Of these, 12 have looked at specific albums, evenly split 6 + 6 between vinyl and CD.

My attempt to uncover some new information on Freddie Roach has resulted in FR being the only artist, so far, to have more than one album discussed here (I’ve looked at 3 by FR so far). Sadly, no new information has emerged yet.

Lead instruments on the 12 albums are tenor saxophone (4) and Hammond organ (4, although there are those within earshot of my hi fi who would claim that I play ‘that b*^*d* harpsichord thing’ to the exclusion of all else. Not true!). Trumpet (2), guitar (1) and piano (1) make up the remainder, although there was left field action from jazz tambourine when I paid a visit to The Texas Twister, Don Wilkerson.

I’ve offered up two quizzes, looked at one book (by Phyl Garland) and commented on 5 live performances.

As of this morning I’ve had 706 visits from all over the world. On one red letter day I received 28 visits. Most visitors are obviously either shy, in awe of the power of my prose, think that I have contributed nothing new or just can’t be bothered. So there are not many comments here yet.

I had been intending to look at Yusef Lateef’s excellent and interesting The Blue Yusef Lateef next, but sadly, he passed away just before Christmas. Here’s the set opener anyway courtesy Kanemusi1 on YouTube:-

To hear the clip, click on or touch the arrow. Try and check out Othelia from the same album too, especially if you like seriously gritty Barrelhouse blues (I think I’ll dedicate it to you Meirion).

Remember, all comments are very welcome.

Onwards to 2014!

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