Yusef Lateef, who died on Monday after a bout with prostate cancer, was a devout Muslim who did not like his music to be called jazz because of the supposed indecent origins and connotations of the word (although those origins are still debated). He preferred the self-coined phrase "autophysiopsychic music." Furthermore, his music encompassed an impressively broad range of styles, and the only Grammy he won was in the New Age category -- for a recording of a symphony. Think about those things amid the flood of Lateef obituaries with "jazz" in the headline.
That said, certainly Lateef's own musical origins indisputably revolved around jazz. Growing up in Detroit, a highly fertile musical environment in the 1930s and beyond, Lateef got his first instrument, an $80 Martin alto sax, at age 18. Within a year he was on the road with the 13 Spirits of Swing (arrangements by Milt Buckner).
A Detroit friend, »
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