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Yusef Lateef

Renaissance man Dr. Yusef Lateef was born William Emanuel Huddleston in Chattanooga, Tennessee on October 9th, 1920. At the age of 5 he moved with his family to Detroit. Growing up in Detroit he came in contact and forged friendships with many a giant of jazz such as Kenny Burrell, Milt Jackson, Tommy Flanagan, Barry Harris, Paul Chambers, and Donald Byrd. By the time he graduated from high school he was a proficient tenor saxophonist. He started soon after graduation playing professionally and touring with different swing orchestras among them those of Hot Lips Page, Roy Eldridge and Lucky Millender. In 1949 he joined Dizzy Gillespie’s orchestra (using the stage name William Evans), and stayed with them for one year. In 1950 he returned to Detroit and to enrolled in the Wayne State University’s Music Department and studying composition and flute. During his tenure at Wayne State he converted to Islam and changed his name to Yusef Lateef. He stayed in Detroit until 1960 and during this decade he led his own quintet for a while, recorded his first album as a leader for the Savoy label, Stable Mates, and furthered his musical education by studying oboe with Ronald Odemark of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra.

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