Yusef Lateef Eastern Sounds (1961) Prestige UK

Track Selection 1: Snafu

Selection 2: Don’t Blame Me (Dedicated to WordPress)


Yusef Lateef (ts, fl, bamboo fl, ob) Barry Harris (p) Ernie Farrow (b, rabat) Lex Humphries (d) recorded Rudy Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, NJ, September 5, 1961


Lateef had a fascination with Eastern mysticism, but in my opinion (others disagree!) was not really successful in fusing it with jazz, if that was the intention. Lateef’s flute and oboe sound to me more like a soundtrack to Bing Crosby and Bob Hope’s Road to Morocco. Enter the snake-charmer. The Love Theme from Spartacus, the tune everybody seems to raves about, I can only describe as “cheesy”: Hollywood biblical blockbuster backcloth music.

Putting the movie tunes aside however, there is plenty of meat in the album as a whole. The modal Snafu  begins with Lateef getting a grip on his own composition, finding the metre in time for his solo, while the piano vamp and bass groove remains menacing and aggressive throughout. Great stuff.  The second selection here, the delightful flowing ballad  Dont Blame Me shows no sign of Eastern Promise whatsoever, and all the better for it..

AllMusic his the nail on the head – the real star here is Barry Harris on piano:

“Harris’s presence is among the most rewarding features of the record. He never puts on world music airs but never fails to fit in. Whereas Lateef’s ersatz Eastern oboe … sounds corny, Harris’s fills are always apposite…Stanley Crouch would claim that is because Harris’s basic vocabulary, fundamentally derived from Monk, is already non-Western in a profound sense”

In a profound sense or any other kind of sense, he’s right.

Vinyl: UK Transatlantic release of  Prestige Moodsville MVLP 22 (right)

Though the first UK release is earlier, on Fontana, this  second release around 1966 by Transatlantic is a very nice pressing indeed, and achieves a real sense of presence. The audio quality of Transatlantic is not well-recognised, and they are often undervalued (ie cheap)

The Matrix

Pressing plant unknown, not recognisably any of the UK majors

Collectors Corner

Source: Ebay

Sellers Description:


A” second chance” purchase, thanks to the original purchaser  failing to execute his half of the Ebay agreement. I thought my offer was a very fair generous one in the first place, no reason to complain. Its actually my second “second chance”. Good system from my point of view. Everyone deserves a second chance.

I’ll play you out with the love theme from Spartacus, see how you feel about it

Best Line from Spartacus (apart from the “I am Spartacus” moment):

“Come with us. See to it I don’t misuse the money” – “Don’t be ridiculous. I’m a Senator”

6 thoughts on “Yusef Lateef Eastern Sounds (1961) Prestige UK

    • Indeed. Transatlantic took on the UK Prestige licensing agreement around 1966/7. In the gap after Esquire folded in I think 1963/4, Philips (through Fontana) and EMI ( through Stateside) both stepped into the breach, releasing Prestige titles in the UK. Transatlantic are nice pressings and go cheap cheap because they are treated as “just another reissue” like Affinity, Boplicity and the rest. But Fontana are great too. Spoiled for choice.

      • Fully agree re: the Transatlantics. I have a Dolphy Five Spot/Memorial Album with that pressing that sounds spectacular (picked up at good old Mole Jazz for about £15 – RIP), also a couple of Jaki Byards (inc. ‘Live at Lennie’s’). The contemporary German SABA pressings of Prestige issues of this vintage are also great too.

  1. I really love this album actually, Snafu is my favorite track on it, but I love the album as a whole. In my opinion Lateef did succeed in fusing eastern sounds with jazz. Some other great examples are some of his Impulse albums like ‘A Flat, G Flat and C’ and ‘The Golden Flute’.

    • All opinions are right here!

      Perhaps I am coming from a different place. During my World Music decades I listened to a lot of what I think of as “Eastern Sounds” – Southeast Asian/ Indian: Nitin Sawney, Trilok Gurtu, Dhaffer Youssef, as well as all that 70’s Mahavishnu/Shakti schtick, Indo Jazz fusion Harriot and Mayer,ethno-jazz from Ethiopia and the like. Perhaps I have a different view what “Eastern” means.

      This is my first proper Lateef album and I will cut him some slack .I have a Lateef Impulse entitled “1984” I think, which I bought on impulse, you could say. I put it as it didnt do a lot for me at the time, but who knows, tastes are a moving feast. That is the beauty of music, it never stands still, nor should it.

  2. The love theme from Spartacus is wonderful. The best thing about it is the way the musicians keep playing the same tune over and over again so you can’t forget it. Very useful if short term memory loss is setting in. Very useful if short term memory loss is setting in.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s