Monday, January 25, 2010

Yusef LATEEF - Into Something 1962

Yusef LATEEF - Into Something 1962
NJLP 8272


I don't know why, maybe it's because of the other Lateef albums I've listened to, but I expected more fire then is initially found here. It doesn't command your attention immediately. As a down-tempo album, is it meant to? I don't think so. One is ill advised to fault an album for being slow if that's it's intention. For those of us not needing our hands held (we all do from time to time), who are willing to listen and for those in the right mood - there's much to recommend here.

First. Intention. I'll take Hentoff's liner notes at face value and accept that the songs chosen for this album are ones admired by Lateef. It's easy to be cynical and assume that inclusion of songs like "When You're Smiling" have a commercial angle. Hentoff quotes Lateef as saying he remembers his father singing the song and he tells Hentoff he appreciates the song's message. So, it's inclusion is a personal one - fair enough. Any jazzbo knows a quality jazzman will alter the most inane pop song beyond recognition. Miles Davis took songs like "Some Day My Prince Will Come" and "Surrey With a Fringe on Top" and made them something to listen to. Coltrane renovated an old clunker like "My Favorite Things" and made it shine. Lateef's treatment of "When You're Smiling" is a good example of what an imaginative player can do with a tired old tune. He states the melody without too much surprise for maybe a minute (tops) and then explodes the thing into several pieces. The majority of the song has Lateef making 2- or 3-note statements from the familiar melodic phrase and then he runs off into inventive asides of stuttered lines and skronks and all manner of imaginative ideas; then, another small cluster of notes advancing the melody, leading into more extemporaneous runs. And so on. It's quite brilliant and is similar to Coltrane's method - though far less grand in scale. This is a good and restful (?) alternative - with Coltrane it's often so difficult to follow his reasoning, separated so thoroughly by seeming chaos, that a listener feels like a latter day Theseus who's forgotten the twine.

Listen to this album when you're willing to listen. Side A is entirely contemplative. The flip side lets loose a bit more and even approaches what some would call "outside". Elvin Jones handles drums for this date. He's a smart drummer. He's also a team player. He does exactly what's expected of him here which is to say he lays back and does not shake things up too much. His much loved polyphony pokes out numerous times throughout Into Something, but don't expect fireworks.

The oboe on Rasheed sounds full-bodied and satisfying on vinyl; at least on my system, with my ears. It's a nice sounding instrument and I prefer it to his flute playing - at least as found on this album. Another "ballads" album is the previous year's Eastern Sounds - a masterpiece where once again Lateef uses the oboe with great success.
Yusef Lateef- (Tenor Sax, Flute, Oboe)
Barry Harris- (Piano)
Herman Wright- (Bass)
Elvin Jones- (Drums)
A1. Rasheed 5:26
A2. When You're Smiling 4:43 
A3. Water Pistol 5:40
A4. You've Changed 4:53
B1. I'll Remember April 6:51
B2. Koko's Tune 6:29
B3. P Bouk 7:11

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