Yusef Lateef

Eastern Sounds

Craft • 1960

»Ethno jazz« is a somewhat unfortunate term for music that attempts to fuse Western and Eastern traditions. This is especially true of multi-instrumentalist and composer Yusef Lateef. As early as the 1950s, Lateef was experimenting with fusions of hard bop with elements from Middle Eastern musical traditions. This was long before John Coltrane and, to an even greater extent, Don Cherry undertook similar experiments. Yusef Lateef’s 1962 album »Eastern Sounds«, now reissued in the »Original Jazz Classics« series, is a kind of reference model for all East-West music fusions. 

With Barry Harris on piano, Ernie Farrow on bass and violin and drummer Les Humphries, the multi-instrumentalist explores the connections between seemingly disparate musical traditions. Harris provides the counterpoint to Lateef’s various wind instruments, keeping everything beautifully balanced. The mysteriously intricate playing on the oboe in »The Plum Blossom« and on the flute in »The Three Faces Of Balal« are some of the finest this amorphous genre has to offer. Rather than serving the fashionable desire for exotic sounds at the time, the album was born out of Yusef Lateef’s deep fascination with non-Western harmonies.