Yusef Lateef: Eastern Sounds

CD reissue of the Tennessee tenor man's take on orientalism, adding other contemporaneous tracks to the original programme

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Like Roland Kirk’s We Free Kings, Lateef’s Eastern Sounds is a classic of its time. Both albums were recorded in 1961, the year of Coltrane’s Live At The Village Vanguard – which featured Chasin’ The Trane, the tumultuous blues Ashley Kahn characterised as “the birth-cry of sixties avant-garde jazz”.

Great as the Vanguard album remains, Lateef’s Sounds joins Kirk’s Kings in showing that, at this time, “avant” jazz with roots could come in many a register (as Coltrane himself knew, of course).

Check the title, instrumentation and personnel of Eastern Sounds and relish the mix of stop-time and medium-groove choruses on the oboe-led Blues For The Orient, with its tasty spots from Barry Harris (p) and Ernie Farrow (b). Hear the special feeling the latter’s plucking of the Moroccan rabat brings to the breathy, spare yet sensuous Chinese-flute melodies of the lyrical Plum Blossom.

Dig deep into the 5/4 modal vamp Chinq Miau, stoked by the excellent Lex Humphries, or float high on the limpid oboe figures of Spartacus. And note the diverse authority of Lateef’s tenor on Chinq Miau, Don’t Blame Me, the Tequila-touched Snafu and the lovely, laid-back and meditative Purple Flower.

There really isn’t a dull moment here. And the release comes with further material from 1961, all four cuts featuring Elvin Jones: sample the relaxed blues of Rasheed (with Lateef again on oboe and some fine downhome testifying from Harris). Remark the wonderful, broad-toned tenor take on You’ve Changed and ask yourself if Lateef is not right up there with Coltrane and Rollins as a modernist master of the ballad.

Such magic is complemented by three potent gospel and blues-fired tracks from 1958 featuring Lateef on flute, with Marching Piper Blues deep in Kirk flute and voice territory, while the faded-out Brother John (not Coltrane) of 1962 offers a brief taste of Lateef’s time with the Adderley Brothers.

Unmissable!

It’s also available in a 180g vinyl edition (reviewed here) with just one extra track.

Discography
(1) The Plum Blossom; Blues For The Orient; Chinq Miau; Don’t Blame Me; Love Theme From Spartacus; Snafu; Purple Flower; Love Theme From The Rose; The Three Faces Of Balal; (2) Rasheed; You’ve Changed; I’ll Remember April; P Bouk; (3) Trouble In Mind; Cookin’; Marching Piper Blues; (4) Brother John (75.32)
Lateef (ts, o, f) with:
(1) Barry Harris (p); Ernie Farrow (b, rabat); Lex Humphries (d). Hackensack, NJ, 5 September 1961.
(2) Harris (p); Herman Wright (b); Elvin Jones (d). Hackensack, NJ, 29 December 1961.
(3) Harris (p); Bill Austin (b); Frank Gant (d). Chicago, 1958.
(4) Julian “Cannonball” Adderley (as); Nat Adderley (c); Joe Zawinul (p); Sam Jones (b); Louis Hayes (d). New York, 1962.
Essential Jazz Classics EJC 55777