Yusef Lateef Hikima: Creativity
Published Jun 07, 2019There have been numerous efforts to combine jazz with African beats and vocals. This stands to reason, given the deep bonds between African musical traditions and jazz music. Marrying the old with the (broadly speaking) new continues to be an important and worthwhile artistic statement.
This 1983 recording by the great Yusef Lateef was produced while he served as a Senior Research Fellow at Ahmadu Bello University in Zaria, Nigeria. Along with a group of local artists, Lateef laid down a seven-track, 36-minute collection that represents a natural step beyond his better-known work, inspired by African, Middle Eastern and Asian musical traditions.
The disc received a limited release via the Centre For Nigerian Cultural Studies at the time; this first-ever vinyl reissue features a solid remastering job by Jessica Thompson.
It is difficult to describe a Lateef recording in anything but a positive light, but this one has to be counted among the artist's lesser works. The performances are strong and Lateef's playing is, at times, inspired. But the combination of the Nigerian beats and vocals with the great man's horn too often feels forced, or worse, disjointed.
In keeping with the reason for Lateef's travel to Nigeria, the album feels more academic than entertaining. Hikima: Creativity makes a statement, but not a great deal more. (Independent)