Yusef Lateef grew up in Detroit and began on tenor when he was 17. He played with Lucky Millinder (1946), Hot Lips Page, Roy Eldridge, and Dizzy Gillespie's big band (1949-1950). He was a fixture on the Detroit jazz scene of the '50s where he studied flute at Wayne State University. Lateef began recording as a leader in 1955 for Savoy (and later Riverside and Prestige) although he did not move to New York until 1959. By then he already had a strong reputation for his versatility and for his willingness to utilize "miscellaneous instruments." Lateef played with Charles Mingus in 1960, gigged with Donald Byrd, and was well-featured with the Cannonball Adderley Sextet (1962-1964). As a leader, his string of Impulse! recordings (1963-1966) was among the finest of his career, although Lateef's varied Atlantic sessions (1967-1976) also had some strong moments. He spent some time in the '80s teaching in Nigeria.
His Atlantic records of the late '80s were closer to mood music (or new age) than jazz, but in the '90s (for his own YAL label) Lateef recorded a wide variety of music (all originals) including some strong improvised music with the likes of Ricky Ford, Archie Shepp, and Von Freeman. Lateef remained active as a composer, improviser, and educator (teaching at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst) into the 21st century, performing and recording as a leader and collaborator on such noteworthy recordings as Towards the Unknown with composer/percussionist Adam Rudolph (released in 2010, the same year Lateef was recognized as a Jazz Master by the National Endowment for the Arts). Yusef Lateef died at his home in Shutesbury, Massachusetts in December 2013; he was 93 years old. ~ Scott Yanow, Rovi