“True love is rare
First released on June 14, 1968, The Blue Yusef Lateef was not in the vein of pop music standards during that period. My ears would have been much more accustomed to James Brown, Aretha Franklin, Diana Ross and the Supremes, or the Temptations. But the album had made its way onto an older brother’s vinyl-spinning turntable and echoes of it had staked out territory in my consciousness like new-world explorers laying claim to an un-flagged planet.
The only song I had been able to recall from the album while in San Francisco had been "Juba Juba,” but once I obtained the full CD, each of the eight compositions shared something brilliant with me. After listening to the second song, “Like It Is,” I immediately played it again. And then again. And again. Exactly how many times I listened to it nonstop I couldn’t say but the magic that had visited me in San Francisco returned and once more I was moved to lift my pen and write inside the flow of Lateef’s playing. The result this time was the poem “Like It Is Us,” later published in both Visions of a Skylark Dressed in Black and in ELEMENTAL, The Power of Illuminated Love.
In the liner notes for the album, Yusef Lateef had described “Juba Juba” as his interpretation of a Mississippi prison song that spoke of “suffering and freedom through shackled rhythm, sterile harmony, lamenting flute improvisation and heartfelt vocalizations.” It was “dedicated to William Henry Lane (c. 1825-62) known as Juba… the greatest minstrel dancer of his time.” While he said less about the second song, “Like It Is,” both compositions had come to me like memories swaddled in dreams intent on delivering prophecies from centuries past. Whatever truth I may have neglected to respect previously I had now transcribed from Lateef’s tone-poems into my own word-songs.
How could I have known decades ago as a child that I was receiving one of the most priceless gifts anyone would ever give me when Yusef Lateef spoke light in the form of music directly to my soul through his saxophone and flute when I first heard his masterpiece of an album The Blue Yusef Lateef? There was no way for me to know it back then–– but I know it now and I am grateful for this opportunity to say Thank You.
One reviewer's shared love affair with music.