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Yusef Lateef Atlantis Lullaby: The Concert in Avignon

Featured National Scene Recordings

By Don Berryman

Yusef Lateef ©1977 Veryl Oakland,

Atlantis Lullaby: The Concert in Avignon presents a never-before-released performance featuring Yusef Lateef in a quartet with fellow jazz greats Kenny Barron, Bob Cunningham, and Albert “Tootie” Heath. It was recorded live by radio producer André Francis at Cloître des Célestins in Avignon, France, on July 19th, 1972 and will be released as a limited edition double LP on April 20th for record store day or two CD set on April 26th by Elemental Music. It was produced by the “Jazz Detective” Zav Feldman. As a fan of Yusef Lateef I was very excited to hear about this treasure being found and was thrilled to listen to the music. The quality of the recording is excellent.

Yusef Lateef was a pioneer in jazz. A virtuoso on saxophone and flute, he also brought a broad spectrum of sounds to his music by including oboe, Middle Eastern and Asian reed instruments, and non-western scales. Those elements as pioneered in his highly influential 1961 album Eastern Sounds are also evident in this 1972 live recording. Yusef Lateef, Kenny Barron, and Albert “Tootie” Heath have all been recognized by the NEA as Jazz Masters, the nation’s highest honor in jazz. Along with Bob Cunningham this was Lateef’s working band in the 70’s for both tours and studio recordings. Kenny Barron had joined Yusef Lateef’s band in early 1971 and that experience Barron acknowledges as having been a key influence on his improvisational skills. This quartet also recorded Hush ‘N’ Thunder in sessions before and after the Avignon concert although none of the tunes on that album were performed at the concert.

Kenny Barron – © Tom Copi

Side A of Atlantis Lullaby: The Concert in Avignon features two Kenny Barron tunes. It opens with a bang, “Inside Atlantis” with scorching solos by Lateef on tenor and Barron on piano with Heath being the hard driving force. Followed by “The Flower ” a ballad performed as a duet with Lateef on Flute and Barron on piano.

Side B starts with “Yusef’s Mood”,  a barrel-house blues with brilliant piano work by Kenny Barron and bluesy tenor work by Lateef evolving into post-bop explorations. The next track is a Tootie Heath tune, “Lowland Lullaby” which is a haunting duet featuring Heath on Indian flute and Bob Cunningham on bass.

Side C opens with “Ebones” by Roy Brooks featuring Lateef on flute with vocalizations and a superb and lengthy bowed bass solo by Bob Cunningham. Lateef returns to the tenor on the standard ballad  “I’m Getting Sentimental Over You”.

Side D departs from the pattern of the previous three, which each had an uptempo tune followed by a ballad, in that it only contains a single track. However, that track is an extended composition by Kenny Barron “The Untitled” which provides great variety both in tempo and mood from contemplative to frenzied exuberance. While structured like a suite each player has room to stretch out in this 25 and a half minutes and the interplay is fantastic. For me this is the highlight of this superb set.

Atlantis Lullaby: The Concert in Avignon was remastered audio transferred from the original tape reels and will be released on April 20th for Record Store Day as a limited edition two 180 gram LP set on April 20th for record store day as well as two CDs on April 26th. The release includes a 24-page booklet with rare photos, essays by arts journalist Shannon Effinger, and producer Zev Feldman, plus reflections by Ayesha Lateef, Kenny Barron, Albert ‘ Tootie’ Heath, Adam Rudolph, Reggie Workman, Joe Lovano, Tia Fuller, Bennie Maupin, James Carter, and Sonny Rollins.

Don Berryman
Don Berryman contact info: 1240 S 2nd Street #405, Minneapolis, MN 55415