- Grammy-winning musician and composer Yusef Lateef, one of the first to incorporate world music into traditional jazz, has died at 93.
Lateef died Monday at his home in Shutesbury in western Massachusetts, according to Douglass Funeral Home in Amherst.
Lateef, a tenor saxophonist known for his impressive technique, also became a top flutist. He was a jazz soloist on the oboe and played bassoon. He introduced different types of flutes and other woodwind instruments from many countries into his music and is credited with playing world music before it was officially named.
"I believe that all humans have knowledge," he said in a 2009 interview for the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA). "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."
As a composer, he created works for performers ranging from soloists to bands to choirs. In 1987, he won a Grammy Award for his new age recording "Yusef Lateef's Little Symphony," on which he played all of the instruments.
In 2010, he was named an NEA Jazz Master, the nation's highest jazz honor.
Lateef had an international following and toured extensively in the U.S., Europe, Japan and Africa. His last tour was in the summer.
He had a bachelor's degree in music and a master's in music education from the Manhattan School of Music. From 1987 to 2002, he was a professor at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst.
He created his own music theory called "Autophysiopsychic Music," which he described in the NEA interview as "music from one's physical, mental and spiritual self, and also from the heart."
Born William Emanuel Huddleston in Chattanooga, Tenn., in 1920, Lateef moved with his family to Detroit five years later. He became acquainted with many top musicians who were part of Detroit's music scene, and by age 18 he was touring professionally with swing bands.
In 1949, he was invited to perform with the Dizzy Gillespie Orchestra, which was playing bebop. He took the name Yusef Lateef after becoming a member of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, and twice made the pilgrimage to Mecca.
He became a fixture on the Detroit jazz scene in the 1950s leading his own quintet. In 1960, he moved to New York and joined Charles Mingus' band. Lateef would go on to perform with some of jazz's best talent, including Cannonball Adderley, Donald Byrd and Miles Davis.
Lateef began recording under his own name in 1956 for Savoy Records, and made more than 100 recordings as a leader for such labels as Prestige, Impulse and his own YAL. His most enduring early recordings included "Love Theme from Spartacus" and "Morning."
In the 1980s, he taught at a university in Nigeria, where he did research into the Fulani flute.