Yusef Lateef: A Flat, G flat and C (1966) Impulse


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”




Collector’s Corner

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.

17 thoughts on “Yusef Lateef: A Flat, G flat and C (1966) Impulse

  1. This is my favorite Lateef lp. Outstanding variety on the album. It’s hard to understand why this hasn’t yet been released on cd. Maybe the record company has a low opinion of it and thinks it won’t sell. His impulse and Prestige stuff is great. Only lp I don’t care for is Jazz Round The World. That is one to avoid.

  2. I adore yusef lateef. recently got a nice original of “other sounds” on new jazz. superb. highly suggested listening if you want to hear his development, LJC.

    oddly, i have had a devil of a time getting his impulse work for reasonable prices. they aren’t worth the 40-50 dollars that ebay seems to command, although i did score “jazz round the world” and “live at pep’s” for a reasonable price going that route. had to source “psychicemotus” from a local seller, and i haven’t found the other three for the right price. but i will.

    • as I often do, I pick out one cd without looking at the musician. I couldn’t recognize the reed player at once but I was sure the drummer was Elvin Jones. I never heard that record before, as I have “too many” and my time goes to vinyl, that won’t be too many. I dug that record very much and was lucky to find a NM copy on E-bay. New Jazz 8272, Yusef Lateef, Into Something. a nice addition to my collection suggested by the Evil Siver Disc.

  3. I’ve just noticed that Yusef Lateef tells us what a Chuen is in the sleeve notes reproduced above. It turns out to be a three stringed Chinese lute.

  4. Dr Yusef Lateef sounds like he was an amazing musician and, indeed, human being. Looking through the tributes at the time of his death in December 2013, I read one contributed by somebody who named YL as his friend and mentor, it was from Sonny Rollins. YL was also friendly with John Coltrane and many of the other greats.

    YL managed to find the time to study music and achieve at degree and masters level as a mature student in the Sixties before taking a doctorate in comparative education and teaching others himself.

    Even from the word go, he was experimenting with unorthodox instruments. The arghul, which seems to be like a bagpipe drone, was deployed on his Jazz Moods set in 1957 and in 1974 he is playing a selection of Sealhorns (didn’t know they had them-sic) on his live Ten Years Hence album. As for the flutes- he seemed to be up for anything that was played at 90 degrees, including some that he made himself and a pneumatic flute, whatever that may be.

    His saxophone playing is very special too. If you are unfamiliar with YL the big question is knowing where to start. I’d direct newcomers to his early years as a leader via the inexpensive Six Classic Albums on evil silver disc. I love the Impulse albums and the Atlantic ones become quite funky but you can’t go wrong with The Blue Yusef Lateef and Detroit Lat 42 30 Long 83.

    I would have loved to have seen him play live- but at least we’ve got his recordings.

  5. I didn’t know this record, but I wonder how a theremin sounds in a modern jazz context. Some years ago I’ve listening to some Clara Rockmore recordings, and I love the theremin sound. She really can play that weird thing!
    About the title, I don’t know any instrument in Ab or Gb. That’s not the case of C, because it’s the concert key, but it may refer to transposing instruments with C variations, such as the C-melody sax (between the alto and tenor, remember Trumbauer?) or even the more rare C soprano sax or C soprano clarinet, as can be seen in the only picture of Buddy Bolden. I don’t know what is a “chuen”.

  6. Lateef certainly was a prolific artist with many albums hit or miss, including the Impulse collection. Other Sounds (New Jazz 8218) is a personal favorite of mine – the liner notes of which point out that Lateef was born Bill Evans and had recorded as such on Gillespie’s 1949 recording of Jump Did-Le Ba.

  7. Nice album. I have a couple of his Impulse releases, but not this one. I’m generally less interested in flute also, but Lateef and Roland Kirk have help me come around a bit.

    • Right on. I will say I don’t like jazz flute, but then I play Kirk’s “Domino” and think “now THAT’S how you play the flute!”

      • Exactly–that one of the records I mean. I’ve also got a CD of Kirk with Jack McDuff where he plays some nice flute as well.

  8. Strange that all the best flautists were multi instrumentalists, Lateef,Kirk,Dolphy,Farrell, where the flute was the secondary instrument

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