Yusef Lateef & Adam Rudolph in Duo Concert at UMass-Amherst

Adam Rudolph and Yusef Lateef
Yusef Lateef

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The duo of percussionist Adam Rudolph and multi-instrumentalist Yusef Lateef will perform together on Thursday, October 15 at Bowker Auditorium at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, in celebration of the Lateef’s 89th birthday. Until his retirement, Lateef was a Five Colleges professor at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst, MA, from which he was awarded a Ph.D. in Education in 1975. The two artists have a long-standing musical friendship that has lasted over 20 years and includes 14 albums, as well as countless performances. Coming from Chicago, Rudolph got to know Lateef and his music in the course of frequent trips to Detroit to see and perform with creative improvisers like Kenny Cox and Charles Moore.

Rudolph told JT that they first did a duo concert back in 1988 at Umass at Amherst and since then they’ve collaborated many times. “We’ve done lots of duets, but also performances with an orchestra. We co-composed three large ensemble pieces and a double concerto World of Peace and Beyond the Sky for his 80th birthday. It was his idea to do these collaborations as compositional things. He’s always trying to do something he’s never done before.”

That quality has marked his entire career in music. Rudolph said that he sees Lateef as an underappreciated pioneer in jazz and music. “Look at all the things he’s done. He got a doctorate and taught at a major university. He wrote books of all kinds, including pedagogical studies. He got into world music in the ’50s. He explored jazz in the context of European classical music. He started his own label. He’s a painter. He’s a poet. All of these things he did before they became accepted by jazz people. Most importantly, he’s never allowed his creativity to be confined.”

Rudolph marvels at his associate’s youth and energy. “He’s always learning, always investigating.” Rudolph also believes that Lateef is underrated as a saxophone player. “I heard him do a solo recently and you could hear the entire deconstructed history of the tenor saxophone, all in that one solo.”

When asked what they’ll be playing at the concert, Rudolph said that, “We’ve discussed some things, but he always wants to do something new. We’ve been trying to play ‘collage-istically.’ At one point, he said to me, ‘You and I, we’re evolutionists.’ I mean, he’s in his 80s but he’s experimenting with electronics. Still forward-thinking. I so much admire him for that.” Rudolph himself is involved with a variety of forward-thinking projects, including his Go: Organic Orchestra, which brings together a large group of musicians from all over the world to perform together regularly in a space in New York – Roulette, in Soho.

The concert with Lateef and Rudolph begins at 8 PM. The Solos & Duos Series concludes with a performance by Tyshawn Sorey (Nov. 19). Tickets are $10 and $5 (students), and available through the Fine Arts Center box office, 545-2511 or 1-800-999-UMAS. For more information, go to the University’s Fine Arts Center web site.