Smorgasbord Blog Magazine – The Music Column with William Price King – Yusef Lateef – #Jazz multi-instrumentalist and composer

Yusef Abdul Lateef (born William Emanuel Huddleston; October 9, 1920 – December 23, 2013) was an American jazz multi-instrumentalist, composer, and prominent figure among the Ahmadiyya Community in America.

Although Lateef’s main instruments were the tenor saxophone and flute, he also played oboe and bassoon, both rare in jazz, and also used a number of non-western instruments such as the bamboo flute, shanai, shofar, xun, arghul and koto. He is known for having been an innovator in the blending of jazz with “Eastern” music. Peter Keepnews, in his New York Times obituary of Lateef, wrote that the musician “played world music before world music had a name“.

Lateef wrote and published a number of books including two novellas entitled A Night in the Garden of Love and Another Avenue, the short story collections Spheres and Rain Shapes, also his autobiography, The Gentle Giant, written in collaboration with Herb Boyd. Along with his record label YAL Records, Lateef owned Fana Music, a music publishing company. Lateef published his own work through Fana, which includes Yusef Lateef’s Flute Book of the Blues and many of his own orchestral compositions.

Let’s enjoy some of his music…….

“Blues for the Orient”, recorded in 1961, is from the album “Eastern Sounds” which explores incorporating Middle Eastern music in fusion, and hardbop.* Check out Lateef’s amazing interpretation of « Blues for the Orient » on the oboe. This laid-back album is filled with tonal and polytonal improvisation highlighting Lateef’s commitment to world musical fusion. Lateef, as usual, plays more than one instrument in this production, he introduces the Chinese xun* (globular flute) in the opening track. This album showcases Lateef’s original compositions as well as love themes from the films ‘Spartacus’ and ‘The Robe.’ Lateef is joined on this recording by Barry Harris on piano, Lex Humphries on drums, and bassist Ernie Farrow.

*Hardbop – a subgenre of jazz that is an extension of bebop (or ‘bop’) music.

*Xun – a globular, vessel flute from China. It is one of the oldest musical instruments in China and has been in use for approximately seven thousand years

The innovative “The Centaur and the Phoenix”, recorded in 1960 on the Riverside label, takes you in many directions – soulful blues, lush ballads, and many Eastern influences, highlighting Lateef’s outstanding flute work. It illustrates Yusef’s interest in expanding the orchestration of jazz. Yusef made a point of not calling his music jazz, rather “autophysiopsychic”, meaning music coming from one’s physical, mental, and spiritual self. The instrumentation he used in this recording was quite unusual at the time: this nonet* included bassoon, oboe, and two trumpets. What makes this album stand out is the balance Lateef achieves with this large group, always an asset, never a distraction, allowing his flute, oboe, tenor sax, or arghul* to rise above it all in brightness, grace and joy. He is accompanied by Ben Tucker on bass, Josea Taylor on bassoon, Lex Humphries on drums, the young Joe Zawinul on piano, Tate Houston on baritone sax, Curtis Fuller on trombone, with Clark Terry and Richard Williams on trumpet.

*Nonet – A musical composition for nine voices or instruments.

*Arghul – a musical instrument which has been used since Ancient Egyptian times and is still a traditional instrument in Egypt and Palestine. lt is a double-pipe, single-reed woodwind instrument that consists of two tubes: a melody pipe with between five and seven holes and a longer drone pipe. Its tone is similar to that of a clarinet, although a bit more reed-like.

“K.C.Shuffle” is the opening song from the album “Part of the Search”, recorded in 1974 at Atlantic Records, an album that breaks the traditional mode of recording commercial albums in that it consists of 11 songs with seven interlude tracks ranging in length from 1 to 23 seconds. Because of the album’s musical diversity it offers sort of a history of jazz in styles and expressions including Kansas City jazz, R&B, and doo wop. Lateef doubles on tenor and alto and is accompanied not only by his trio but by a big band, a string quartet, background vocals and a variety of electric keyboards and guitarists. Aside from doubling on tenor and alto sax, Lateef also plays the flute, bamboo flute, pneumatic bamboo flute, oboe, bells, and tambourine.

“Yusef Lateef’s Little Symphony” – in four movements (produced by Lateef, recorded, mixed and mastered by Norman Blain, and remastered by Dennis King) is imaginative, moving, and provocative. This is not surprising from a musician who dedicated his career to change and musical freedom coming from jazz’s rich history of improvisation and spontaneity. Billboard described this album as ‘an atmospheric four-movement classical/jazz composition.’ “Yusef Lateef’s Little Symphony” received a Grammy Award in 1988 for Best New Age Album despite the fact that Lateef had no prior association with the genre. Lateef played all of the instruments that appear on this album (reeds, flutes, shannie, gourdophone, kalangu, water drum, and percussive sitar), overdubbing each track himself.

Buy music by Yusef Lateef:


About William Price King

William Price King is an American jazz singer, crooner, and composer.

His interest in music began at an early age when he studied piano and clarinet in high school. At Morehouse College in Atlanta where he grew up, he sang in the Glee Club and studied classical music. After graduation he went off to the Yale School of Music where he earned a Masters degree. From there he journeyed to New York where he created a jazz trio ‘Au Naturel’ which performed in some of the hottest venues in Manhattan including gigs on Broadway and the famous ‘Rainbow Room.’ These gigs opened doors for performances in Montreal and a European tour.

While touring Europe he met a lovely French lady, Jeanne Maïstre, who, a year later became his wife. King left the group ‘Au Naturel’ and settled in the south of France where he started a new life on the French Riviera, opening his own music school – the “Price King Ecole Internationale de Chant.” He has had the pleasure over the years of seeing many of his students excel as singers on a professional level, and some going on to become national celebrities. He continues to coach young singers today, in his spare time.

His debut jazz album was entitled “Home,” and was a collection of contemporary compositions he composed, with lyrics written by his wife Jeanne King. His second album was a Duo (Voice and Guitar) with Eric Sempé on the guitar. This album included original songs as well as well known standards from contemporary jazz and pop artists. The “King-Sempé” duo toured France and thrilled audiences for more than three years before going their separate ways. King has formed a new duo with French/Greek guitarist Manolis, and is now exploring new ideas, in a smooth jazz/soul/folk direction.

In addition to singing and composing, King has been collaborating with author Sally Cronin over the past few years on her blog “Smorgasbord – Variety is the spice of life,” with the series “A Man And His Music – Jazz, Contemporary, Classical, and Legends” and now, the “William Price King Music Column.” Working with author Sally Cronin has been an exhilarating experience in many ways and has brought a new dimension to King’s creative life. King has also created a micro blog, “Improvisation,” which features and introduces mostly jazz artists from across the jazz spectrum who have made considerable contributions in the world of jazz; and also artwork from painters who have made their mark in the world of art. This micro blog can be found on Tumblr.

His vocal mentors are two of the greatest giants in jazz, Nat King Cole and Mel Tormé. King has a distinctive wide-ranging voice which displays a remarkable technical facility and emotional depth.

William Price King on Tumblr – IMPROVISATION

Connect with William

Regular Venue 

You can find all of the Music Column series in this directory:

As always we would love to receive your feedback.. thanks Sally and William

16 thoughts on “Smorgasbord Blog Magazine – The Music Column with William Price King – Yusef Lateef – #Jazz multi-instrumentalist and composer

  1. Fascinating post William and Sal. Again. I’d never heard of that multi-talented artist Yusef. What a talent to be able to play so many instruments – some of which I’d never even heard of! I’ll say that his music definitely sounds like a fusion mix of genres which doesn’t surprise me he won a Grammy for new age music. Thanks William 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: Smorgasbord Blog Magazine – The Weekly Round Up – | Smorgasbord Blog Magazine

  3. Pingback: Smorgasbord Blog Magazine – The Weekly Round Up – Social Media, Jazz, Tulips, Cookery, Guests, short stories, poetry and guests. | Smorgasbord Blog Magazine

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