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The African-American Epic Suite
The African-American Epic Suite
By Yusef Lateef

ACT Jazz: 1996

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This review first appeared in the February 28, 1997 issue of the North County Times.

Jazz reedman Yusef Lateef has always pushed the boundaries of his chosen genre – jazz. In the 1950s, he was among the first Americans to incorporate Middle Eastern and African influences into jazz.

Now in his mid-70s, Lateef seems as exploratory as ever. This American reissue of a European release from 1993 got rave reviews in England, and no wonder. Lateef's four-part suite is epic in not only its title, but also in scope and exposition. He brilliantly uses all the sounds at his disposal – strings to Spanish guitar, horn charts to simple hand percussion – to weave his musical narration of the black experience in the United States, from slavery to the Civil Rights movement to the present. The music itself is avant-garde, often dissonant and never boring.