Far too important to be relegated to a mere footnote in the history, but not always given enough prominence to keep his name visible, this is a valuable addition to Lateef’s already impressive discography.

Elemental Music 5990450

Yusef Lateef (soprano & tenor saxophones, flute); Kenny Barron (piano); Bob Cunningham (bass); Albert “Tootie” Heath (drums, Indian flute)

Recorded July 19th, 1972

Zev Feldman, a.k.a. the Jazz Detective has been busy of late compiling a series of releases in time for Record Store Day on 20th April, and we owe him a debt of gratitude for doing so. How he continues to unearth so many great unissued recordings is a mystery, but gems they are and more importantly essential documents in the music’s history.

This concert by Yusef Lateef Quartet is no exception, and over two CDs the music is fluid and inventive, and often a lot of fun too. That is after all why we listen to music for mental and emotional stimulation and to be entertained. Lateef certainly knows how to all three, and across the seven compositions from this live recording, the musical ground covered by the quartet is astonishing.

Disc one opens in spectacular fashion with Kenny Barron’s ‘Inside Atlantis’ a hard bop theme that Lateef takes on tenor in a hard-hitting intro and solo that ensures that everyone is on their toes right from the off. Bass and drums drive the music along at a furious pace, but it the tenor solo and Barron’s commentary that command the attention.

Just as compellng is ‘Yusef’s Blues’ written by Lateef this is a real barrelhouse blues, and the pianist has the audacity to steal the honours from right under the leader’s nose in a solo that after giving a quick recap of blues piano implying a contemporary blues on the brink of abstraction. Chorus after chorus Barron’s keeps up the momentum, each phrase building from the last and cranking up the excitement as the solo progresses.

Sandwiched between these two up tempo numbers is another Barron composition, ‘A Flower’ a duet for flute and piano that brings a gentle and reflective lyricism in both musicians. The disc closes with a further duet, this time for bass and Albert Heath on Indian flute.

The second disc delivers up more delights in Roy Brook’s composition ‘Eboness’ that Lateef announces as a feature for Bob Cunningham, but it is Lateef’s flute that draws the ear, and that man Barron again at the piano in another excellent solo with the whole displaying echoes of 1960s Blue Note.

If Kenny Barron was playing at the top of his game on this gig, then Yusef was not letting the pianist have all the fun, and it seems strange that is on the ballad ‘I’m Getting Sentimental Over You’ that in emotive tenor solo that Lateef chooses to unleash such controlled and expressive improvisation. This is followed by another up-tempo piece ‘The Untitled’ by Kenny Barron, with Lateef again on tenor saxophone that after the leader’s solo moves into a dialogue for tenor, arco bass and flute, before morphing into a full four-way conversation that is never allowed to meaner, but always remains sharply in focus.

A staunch advocate for jazz and a multi-instrumentalist of some stature, Yusef Lateef is a figure that is not on everyone’s radar these days, and this excellent concert recording reminds us all what a fine player he was. Far too important to be relegated to a mere footnote in the history, but not always given enough prominence to keep his name visible, this is a valuable addition to Lateef’s already impressive discography.