Jazz Legend Yusef Lateef Dead at 93

Musician/educator passes away at home in Massachusetts.

Posted: 12/26/2013 11:13 AM EST
Filed Under Jazz, Music News

Yusef Lateef

Yusef Lateef, the Grammy-winning musician/composer noted for introducing worldly instruments into jazz music, died Monday (Dec. 23) at the age of 93. Lateef passed away "peacefully at home with loves ones" in Shutesbury, Mass., according to an announcement on his website.

The lauded instrumentalist and educator played the tenor saxophone, flute, oboe, bassoon and other instruments. He began his recording career in the late 1950s and is credited for influencing jazz great John Coltrane, along with being known for playing "world music" before it was given a name. 

A native of Tennessee, Lateef introduced various flutes and other wooden instrumentals into the genre, releasing over a dozen albums throughout the years. In the late 1960s he added soul and gospel notes to his music and received a B.A. in music from the Manhattan School of Music. He went on to acquire more academic accolades, earning a Master's Degree in music education in 1970 and a doctorate from the University of Massachusetts Amherst in 1975.

Additionally, Lateef worked as a college professor of music and music education between the years of 1987 to 2002, as well as authored several books, including two novels. He also co-wrote his autobiography The Gentle Giant

Born William Emanuel Huddleston in Chattanooga, Tenn. in 1920, Lateef converted to Islam in the late '40s, making two pilgrimages to Mecca, known as a holy land for followers of the religion.  

He was preceded in death by wife Tahira Lateef, as well as two children. He is survived by his second son and namesake, daughter-in-law, granddaughter and several great-grandchildren. 

A viewing is scheduled for today at the Douglass Funeral Home from 3 p.m.-5:15 p.m. EST.    

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(Photo: David Redfern/Redferns via Getty Images)

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