Yusef Lateef Dies: Saxophonist, Grammy Winner Was 93

Tuesday, 24 Dec 2013 09:56 AM

By Michael Mullins

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Yusef Lateef, the Grammy-winning musician and composer most known for his ability on the saxophone, died Monday at his home in Shutesbury, Mass. He was 93.

In addition to being a tenor saxophonist, Lateef was known for being a top flutist as well as a jazz soloist on the oboe and bassoon player, the Associated Press reported.


"I believe that all humans have knowledge," Lateef said in a 2009 interview for the National Endowment for the Arts, the AP noted. "Each culture has some knowledge. That's why I studied with Saj Dev, an Indian flute player. That's why I studied Stockhausen's music. The pygmies' music of the rain forest is very rich music. So the knowledge is out there. And I also believe one should seek knowledge from the cradle to the grave. With that kind of inquisitiveness, one discovers things that were unknown before."

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In addition to performing with instruments, Lateef the composer had his works played by bands, choirs and soloists alike as well as symphony orchestras in the United States and Germany.

Lateef's Grammy came in 1987 for "Yusef Lateef's Little Symphony," a new age recording in which he played all of the instruments, the AP noted.

In 2010, he was named an NEA Jazz Master, the nation's highest jazz honor.

Born William Emanuel Huddleston in Chattanooga, Tenn., Lateef moved to Detroit with his family at five years of age. Shortly after he was introduced the city’s thriving music scene to which as a teenager he became acquainted and eventually toured with the likes of Lucky Millinder, Roy Eldridge, Hot Lips Page and Ernie Fields.

The saxophonist subsequently became a fixture in Detroit’s 1950s music scene, before moving to New York City in 1960 and joining the Charles Mingus' band in addition to pursuing a soloist career where among his most enduring songs are "Love Theme from Spartacus" and "Morning," according to the AP.

Later in his life, the famous Jazz musician converted to Islam and changed his name to Yusef Lateef.

Lateef is survived by his wife, Ayesha Lateef; son, Yusef Lateef; granddaughter and great-grandchildren.

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