Thursday, July 19, 2018

Gentle Giant Steps

Hello again and welcome to the next in a series of tremendous consecutives from me, this one concerning another killer concert and its anniversary today.
This one stars one of the formatives of the firmament, and someone who can legitimately be considered to have helped invent a whole genre of music which we all take for granted in our lives, but was once but a figment of the musical imagination until heroes such as he brought it into being.
It was all once very compartmentalized, you know. Musics of disparate, far flung cultures existed independent of each other, rarely if ever meeting in their middle.
Even what is called Jazz -- a music on the freer, more improvisational side of the street -- was once completely and strictly segmented in a whole lot of ways.
There were saxophones, alto and tenor. Trombones, trumpets, some pianos, the clarinet. The occasional, but rare, flute. Contrabass being plucked. Trap drums with little alternative or "ethnic" percussion. The instrumental choices, as well as the cross-cultural palette, were severely limited -- even within the freewheeling context of Jazz -- in light of the multivariety we take for granted now.
That changed due to several factors, certainly, but none more central than the advent of the man behind today's post, who came on the scene at the height of bebop in the late 1940s with Dizzy Gillespie's legendary orchestra and who soon, on his own, would begin to broaden the horizons of the music in unprecedented and lastingly influential ways.
He brought with him a whole bunch of horns, flutes and whatnot that up to that time in the 1950s were not remotely associated with Jazz, or even Western music at all.
One of the very first American musicians to convert to Islam and take an Islamic name, he paved the way in a hundred different ways for so much of what followed culturally and aesthetically, across not just Jazz but all of the music of our lifetimes.
See, we have a section in every record store still left standing, and on every online music emporium, we call World Music. Wherein the musics and approaches and instrumentations of widely divergent cultures are cross-bred into a hybrid form that straddles the territories between peoples and cultures and becomes something that never existed before, and whose possibilities are literally limitless.
Today's mainman started it all, really. At least in integrating music then considered "Eastern" into the framework of American improvisation and instrumentation, there can be no figure more essential and important than the gentle giant, Yusef Lateef.
As the Fifties became the Sixties, he began to produce LPs that are still considered cornerstones of these new horizons we now assume to have been with us forever.
Revolutionary figures are good at that: taking what was once well beyond the acceptable Overton Window of what is and lengthening and stretching the previously inviolable boundaries with an effortlessness that provides an undertow -- whose momentum points to a direction -- into which other explorers are inevitably and enthusiastically swept.
His early 1960s output -- which includes two of my favorite records of all time, Eastern Sounds and The Centaur and the Phoenix -- stands as the watershed apotheosis of what would become codified in the shops and on the airwaves as World Music. For me, no finer or more gorgeously interpreted music exists in this world.
Today's share is another of these exquisite France Musique rebroadcasts, this time of a 1972 concert in Avignon that showcases the man out front of a totally sympathetic ensemble, blowing into a whole slew of reeds and winds for an enraptured audience. Watch out for piano deity Kenny Barron -- yes, he will get his day on this page someday soon -- tinkling those ivories.
Yusef Lateef Quartet
Cloître des Célestins
Avignon, France

01 Inside Atlantis
02 Lowland Lullaby
03 Eboness
04 unknown title
05 A Flower
06 Yusef's Mood

Total time: 53:38

Yusef Lateef - tenor & soprano saxophones, flute, and more
Kenny Barron - piano
Bob Cunningham - bass
Albert "Tootie" Heath - drums

digital capture of a 2016 France Musique rebroadcast
As in yesterday's rebroadcast, there's a minimally intrusive station ID talkover at the start of the first and last tunes, but again these do little to detract from the music so they were left intact.
I'll be back tomorrow with something truly unbelievable from the archives of Norwegian television, but today we are all about acknowledging the mighty Yusef Lateef -- and his massive contribution to the music of our epoch -- which, in light of all that has followed in the almost 70 years since his beginning, can never be overstated.--J.
10.9.1920 - 12.23.2013

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