Saxophonist and flutist Yusef Lateef is a prolific iconoclast who doubles on a number of instruments from around the world, including bassoon, oboe, shofar and argol.
Yusef Lateef is a Grammy Award-winning composer, performer, recording artist, author, visual artist, educator and philosopher who has been a major force on the international musical scene for more than six decades. In recognition of his many contributions to the world of music, he has been named an American Jazz Master for the year 2010 by the National Endowment for the Arts.
Still very much active as a touring and recording artist, Yusef Lateef is universally acknowledged as one of the great living masters and innovators in the African American tradition of autophysiopsychic music — that which comes from one’s spiritual, physical and emotional self.
As a virtuoso on a broad spectrum of reed instruments -- tenor saxophone, flute, oboe, bamboo flute, shanai, shofar, argol, sarewa, and taiwan koto — Yusef Lateef has introduced delightful new sounds and blends of tone colors to audiences all over the world, and he has incorporated the sounds of many countries into his own music. As a result, he is considered a pioneer in what is known today as “world music.”
As a composer, Yusef Lateef has compiled a catalogue of works not only for the quartets and quintets he has led, but for symphony and chamber orchestras, stage bands, small ensembles, vocalists, choruses and solo pianists. His extended works have been performed by the WDR (Cologne), NDR (Hamburg), Atlanta, Augusta and Detroit Symphony Orchestras, the Symphony of the New World, Eternal Wind, the GO Organic Orchestra, and the New Century Players from California Insitute of the Arts. In 1987 he won a Grammy Award for his recording of “Yusef Lateef’s Little Symphony,” on which he performed all the parts. His latest extended works include a woodwind quintet, his Symphony No.2, and a concerto for piano and orchestra.
As an educator, Yusef has devoted much of his life to exploring the methodology of autophysiopsychic music in various cultures and passing what he has learned on to new generations of students. He is an emeritus Five Colleges professor at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst, MA, from which he was awarded a Ph.D. in Education in 1975. His doctoral dissertation was entitled “An Overview of Western and Islamic Education.” In 2007 he was named University of Massachusetts’ “Artist of the Year.”
As an author, Yusef Lateef has published two novellas, “A Night in the Garden of Love” and “Another Avenue;” two collections of short stories, “Spheres” and “Rain Shapes;” and his autobiography, “The Gentle Giant,” written in collaboration with Herb Boyd. In recent years he has also exhibited his paintings at various art galleries.
Yusef A. Lateef was born William Emanuel Huddleston on October 9, 1920 in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and moved with his family to Detroit in 1925. In Detroit’s fertile musical environment, Yusef soon established long-standing friendships with such masters of American music as Milt Jackson, Tommy Flanagan, Barry Harris, Paul Chambers, Donald Byrd, the Jones brothers (Hank, Thad and Elvin), Curtis Fuller, Kenny Burrell, Lucky Thompson and Matthew Rucker. He was already proficient on tenor saxophone while in high school, and at the age of 18 began touring professionally with swing bands led by Hartley Toots, Hot Lips Page, Roy Eldridge, Herbie Fields and eventually Lucky Millender. In 1949 he was invited to join the Dizzy Gillespie Orchestra.