Artist # Yusef Lateef
Album # Yusef Lateef’s Detroit Latitude 42°30’Longitude 83°
Year # 1969
Genre # Jazz, Soul, Funk
Lateef chose his old stomping grounds of Detroit for an evocative musical study of the landscape, people, spirit and terrain. Lateef spent the late-’50s in the city recording for Savoy, and this recording captures the memory of a great city before it was torn apart by racial strife and economic inequality in 1967.
There is no way to make a record that suggests Detroit without rhythm… For all of the soul-jazz pouring forth from the Blue Note and Prestige labels at the time, this album stood apart for its Eastern-tinged melodies on “Eastern Market”; the “Black Bottom,” gutbucket, moaning bluesiness on “Russell and Elliot,” with Gale and Lateef on tenor trading fours in a slowhanded, low-end groove; and the solid, Motown-glazed, rocking Latin soul of “Belle Isle.”
It was about this time, in the summer of 1943 that Detroit experienced one of the worst race riots in the nation’s history. The turbulence began after a man ran into the B&C Club down in Paradise Valley and told the audience that a white mob had killed a black woman and her child on the Belle Isle Bridge and tossed their bodies into the Detroit River. Since I lived only one block from the demarcation line that divided the Black community from the white community, I was particularly concerned about the welfare of my family. I feared that some of the mob would break in our house and harm me, my wife and my daughter. But, fortunately, we were spared some of the horrors that swept across the city those three days, leaving extensive property damage and thirty-four fatalities. It was horrible. Most of the stores in the neighbourhood were owned by Jewish merchants and they were targeted by looters. There was one major incident on the corner of Russell and Holbrook, near a pawnshop, where a black man was gunned down by gunfire that practically cut his body in half. He was just one of the twenty-five blacks who were killed during the riot, almost half of them by the police. This disturbance was much more devastating than the racial conflict that occurred a year before at the Sojourner Truth public housing projects way out on Ryan Road. Lost of blacks and whites were injured after the units were integrated by black occupants. It was quite a clash, but not like the incident in 1943.
[Excerpt from The Gentle Giant: The Autobiography of Yusef LaTeef]
Yusef Lateef was born William Emanuel Huddleston in Chattanooga, Tennessee on October 9th, 1920. At the age of 5 he moved with his family to Detroit. Growing up in Detroit he came in contact and forged friendships with many a giant of jazz such as Kenny Burrell, Milt Jackson, Tommy Flanagan, Barry Harris, Paul Chambers, and Donald Byrd. In 1950 he enrolled in the Wayne State University’s Music Department and studying composition and flute. During his tenure at Wayne State he converted to Islam and changed his name to Yusef Lateef.