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YUSEF LATEEF (October 9, 1920 – December 23, 2013)


McNair Yusuf 38px-Speaker_Icon.svgListen

Joseph McNair: “for Yusuf Lateef (1920) IbĂ  á se Baba”

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open quotes blueBut the heart of Mr. Lateef’s musicianship was a profound understanding of the blues, best expressed through the wailing, cavernous tone he produced on the tenor sax. It was a sound braised by soulful bent pitches and to-the-point phrasing that grabbed you by the collar and refused to let go

— from the Mark Stryker obituary
(Detroit Free Press, December 24, 2013)
YusefLateef DetFreePressfile

Read Mark Stryker’s review of a September 2007 Lateef concert


open quotes blueYusef Lateef, a jazz saxophonist and flutist who spent his career crossing musical boundaries, died on Monday at his home in Shutesbury, Mass., near Amherst. He was 93.

His death was announced on his website.

Mr. Lateef started out as a tenor saxophonist with a big tone and a bluesy style, not significantly more or less talented than numerous other saxophonists in the crowded jazz scene of the 1940s. He served a conventional jazz apprenticeship, working in the bands of Lucky Millinder, Dizzy Gillespie and others. But by the time he made his first records as a leader, in 1957, he had begun establishing a reputation as a decidedly unconventional musician

— from the Peter Keepnews obituary
(New York Times, February 24, 2013

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Yusef Lateef, Grammy-winning musician, composer, dies at 93

Monday, December 23, 2013

Dr. Yusef Abdul Lateef, 93, of Shutesbury (Massachusetts), passed away Monday, Dec. 23, 2013, in the late morning. He passed peacefully at home with loved ones.

Dr. Lateef was a Five College Professor of Music and Music Education from 1987 to 2002 and was well known for his support and mentorship of up and coming artists. Dr. Lateef was a 2010 recipient of the National Endowment for the Arts Award. This Grammy Aaward-winning composer and musician’s career began in the 1940’s and has continued with touring and performing worldwide until the summer of 2013.

His biography, The Gentle Giant, by Herb Boyd, aptly describes his patient, soft-spoken demeanor and compassionate heart. Dr. Yusef Lateef was a devout member of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community since 1948 and had performed the Hajj (pilgrimage to Mecca) on two occasions.

He was predeceased by his wife, Tahira Lateef, a daughter and a son. He is survived by his second son, Yusef Lateef, current wife Ayesha Lateef, granddaughter Iqbal, as well a host of great-grandchildren.

Calling hours will be held Thursday, Dec. 26, from 3 to 5:15 p.m. with Janaza prayers at 5:15 p.m. at the Douglass Funeral Home, 87 N. Pleasant Street, Amherst, MA.

Obituary and memorial register at

News Coverage
New York Times L.A. Times
Entertainment Weekly Chicago Tribune
Detroit Free Press



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Al Young on Yusef Lateef

open quotesYusef Lateef’s influence on my early development remains inestimable. I used to catch his Monday night performances at Detroit’s World Stage (just across the line in Highland Park. For the rest of the week this venue was a theater-in-the-round. Because no alcohol wasn’t permitted, kids were allowed. As features editor of the Central High Student, I could get backstage, where some musicians harbored their own private stashes of liquor and other libations. I watched as the bottle or smoke circulated. “Hey, Yusef,” someone might ask. “You want some of this?” Yusef would courteously decline and wave it on. But when he hit the stand with his horn, mostly tenor saxophone in the mid-1950s, Yusef would blow everybody away. He was so eloquent and strong. I played in the school band and orchestra. Once a month we players got discount 50-cent tickets to attend the Thursday night Detroit Symphony concerts. Yusef, who was studying for his Masters in Composition at Wayne University at the time, was always in the audience, and always all dressed up and jotting notes into a staff-lined music notebook. I and my tiny circle of jazz crazies loved the man. That he was Muslim intrigued us. Eventually, to understand a little about where Yusef was coming from, I read British Muslim Marmaduke Pickthall’s translation of the Qur’an: The Glorious Koran. And I was moved. The world has lost a master musician and colossal spirit.
— Al Young


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