In 1976, Yusef Lateef’s as restless a spiritual seeker as there ever was in the field of music, revisited some of his earliest themes in the context of modern sonic frameworks: The Eastern modal and melodic frameworks of his Prestige sides, such as Eastern Sounds, Cry!/Tender, and Other Sounds, brought to bear in much more sophisticated, complex, and grooved-out ways — after all, it had been 20 years or more. The groove referred to is funk and soul. Funk itself was mutating at the time, so Lateef’s interpolation at the crossroads of all ports in the musical journey was not only valid in 1976, but also necessary.
For this recording, he utilized an absolutely huge group of musicians, bringing them in for this or that part, or a sound, or a particular vamp. Some of those present were Kenny Barron, Ron Carter, Dom Um Romao, Al Foster, Billy Butler, Anthony Jackson, a five-piece brass section, and a synth player. Lateef, as always, was offering evocative glimpses of geographical, psychological, spiritual, and emotional terrain in his compositions, but not in predictable ways.
There’s the deep minor-key meditation on blues and evolving thematic variations on “Hellbound” that becomes a Latin funk tune; the airy, contemplative, and skeletal “Mystique,” which may use a repeating rhythmic phrase but explores every inch of its margins via a string section and Lateef’s flute solo; the smooth, urban, bluesy funk of “Mississippi Mud”; the completely out electronic musique of “Technological Homosapien” that becomes a series of synth squeals and an erratically tumbling bassline; and the wonderfully warped mariachi variation (sung in white-boy English) that featured the band playing bluesy hard bop over an age-old recorded track on “In a Little Spanish Town.” It’s a weird way to end a record, but then, it’s a weird and wonderful record. Thom Jurek/AMG