NEA Statement on the Death of Jazz Master Yusef Lateef

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It is with great sadness that the National Endowment for the Arts acknowledges the passing of 2010 NEA Jazz Master Yusef Lateef, a virtuoso on the traditional jazz instruments of saxophone and flute. Lateef also brought a broad spectrum of sounds to his music through his mastery of Middle Eastern and Asian reed instruments. A major force on the international musical scene for more than seven decades, he was one of the first to bring a world music approach to traditional jazz.

Growing up in Detroit’s fertile musical environment, Lateef established personal and musical relationships with such jazz legends as Kenny Burrell<http://arts.gov/honors/jazz/kenny-burrell>, Donald Byrd<http://arts.gov/honors/jazz/donald-byrd>, Paul Chambers, Tommy Flanagan<http://arts.gov/honors/jazz/tommy-flanagan>, Milt Jackson<http://arts.gov/honors/jazz/milt-jackson>, Barry Harris<http://arts.gov/honors/jazz/barry-harris>, the Jones brothers (Hank<http://arts.gov/honors/jazz/hank-jones>, Thad, and Elvin<http://arts.gov/honors/jazz/elvin-jones>), and Lucky Thompson. In 1949, he was invited to perform with the Dizzy Gillespie<http://arts.gov/honors/jazz/john-birks-dizzy-gillespie> Orchestra, a defining moment in developing his sound.

In the 1950s and 1960s, he worked with Charles Mingus and Cannonball Adderley before moving on his own diverse solo career. As a composer, Lateef compiled a body of work for soloists, small ensembles, chamber and symphony orchestras, stage bands, and choirs. In 1987, he won a Grammy Award for his recording Yusef Lateef’s Little Symphony, on which Lateef played all the instruments.

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