Selection 1: Nile Valley Blues
Selection 2: Blind Willie
Yusef Lateef (tenor, alto saxophone, flute, oboe, chuen, theremin) Hugh Lawson (piano) Reggie Workman (bass) Roy Brooks (drums) recorded NYC, March 8 & 9, 1966
Lateef led six albums for Impulse before moving to Atlantic for over two decades. On this 1966 title, the theme is, loosely, the blues, with Lateef alternating instruments between tenor, alto, flute and oboe. The album title appears a reference to musical instruments which are formed out of concert pitch and therefore require transposition in musical notation. (Note that explanation is pure guesswork. Suffice to say, someone who knows better will jump in and correct my mistake. It’s the Internet – an infinite supply of human knowledge).
Lateef also had a prediliction for introducing obscure instruments, and they don’t come more obscure than the theremin, an electronic instrument controlled by two metal antennas (antenae?) which sense the relative position of the performers hands, controlling pitch with one hand, and volume with the other, by hand-waving. It found a natural home in science fiction b-movie soundtracks and assorted rock bands. In Lateef’s hands, it sounds no less odd, cue Captain Scarlet and The Mysterons.
Search for a instrument called a “chuen” stubbornly refused to yield any findings, other than circular references to its appearance on this album, thereby rendering it even more obscure still than a theremin, which has been linked with space prog rockers Hawkwind. The word Chuen is Chinese, I found no more.
Some of the tracks here are unashamedly funky, especially the selection Nile Valley Blues, with its Sidewinder-like accented beat, and Yusef’s breathy and speak-through-the-flute effects. An influence on Ian Anderson’s flute in Jethro Tull? (Formed 1968, seen by LJC the same year, performing at Portsmouth Polytechnic). Other tracks maintain the blues connection with Hugh Lawson’s tastefully bluesy piano chords decorated with arpeggios, grace notes, and shifting accompaniment, exemplified by the oddly-moving slow blues Blind Willie (Johnson).
This is an altogether likeable album which found me finally warming to what has been my least favourite jazz instrument – the flute (think Herbie Mann)
Lateef left us only last year, December 23, 2013, at the ripe old age of 93.
Vinyl: Impulse AS 9117 – VAN GELDER STEREO
1966 finds the Impulse catalogue still going strong, with more titles emerging in artfully-produced stereo, Van Gelder by now “seemingly getting the hang of it”
Source: Ebay – a surprise win given a long series of unsuccessful bids over many weeks, often placed second, losing to people placing 300-500 bids a month, which is ever so slightly annoying (British understatement)
Between 1963 and ’65 Lateef led six albums for Impulse, and A Flat… now completes the set for me…
A 84 1984
A 56 Jazz ’round The World
A 69 Live At Peps
A 92 Psychicemotus
A 9117 A Flat, G Flat and C
A 9125 The Golden Flute
Game set and match.