Yusef A. Lateef Collection

Identifier: MSS.1034

  • Staff Only

Scope and Contents

The Yusef A. Lateef Collection (1950–2019) consists of scores, pedagogical materials, recordings, and other materials related to the musical career of Yusef A. Lateef (1920–2013). The collection is organized into fifteen series. The first contains a large group of scores and parts, organized alphabetically by title. The second contains musical matrices and diagrams. The third contains correspondence (1970-2013). The fourth contains Lateef’s writings, which includes essays and fiction. The fifth and sixth series are related to Lateef’s role as a teacher, including pedagogical scores and classroom teaching materials. This series also contains a few documents related to Lateef’s studies at Wayne State University. Series seven and eight contain ledgers and phonebooks, contracts and registrations. Series nine contains photographs of Lateef, including other musicians, friends, and community members. Series ten contains print media, mainly in the form of press notices. Series eleven contains event promotion material and ephemera. Series twelve contains materials related to Lateef’s friendship with Archie Moore (1913-1998), who was a professional boxer. Series thirteen contains realia, including several awards. Series fourteen contains audio-visual recordings, which may be accessed in Aviary via links in the finding aid. Original formats range from open reel tapes, to DATs, CDs, and cassette tapes. Most of the content in the audio-visual recordings consists of Lateef’s performances and recordings of his compositions. Other notable content includes rehearsals, field recordings from his travels in Africa, and different versions of album releases. The final series contains five musical instruments, reflecting Lateef’s connections with India and West Africa.


  • 1950s-2010s

Conditions Governing Access

This collection may be viewed only in the reading room of Special Collections in the Jean and Alexander Heard Library. Collections should be requested 2-3 days prior to visiting in order to facilitate easier access. For questions or to request a collection, contact specialcollections@vanderbilt.edu.

Biographical / Historical

Yusef Lateef (b. Chattanooga, TN, Oct. 9, 1920; d. Shutesbury, MA, July 25, 2013) was an American tenor saxophonist, flutist, and composer. He grew up in Detroit and performed with the bands of Hot Lips Page, Roy Eldridge and others. In 1948, he converted to Islam, joining the Ahmadiyya community, a revival movement within Sunni Islam. He performed for two years with the Dizzy Gillespie Orchestra (1948-9). Lateef moved to New York City in 1960, where he performed with Charles Mingus, Cannonball Adderley, and Grant Green. Education was an important dimension of his life and career as a musician and composer, both as a student and teacher. Lateef is known for work on tenor saxophone and flute. He also played oboe. His musical activities also engaged exploration of timbre, non-Western approaches to improvisation, and use of non-Western instruments. He developed the concept of "autophysiopsychic" music as a corrective to some of the ways that the common conceptions of "jazz" reinforce racialized stereotypes. Lateef wrote both music and prose and devoted himself to teaching in the later part of his life. (By EK Batiuk Sources: Helgert, L. Lateef, Yusef. Grove Music Online. Retrieved 08 Aug. 2022. Monson, Ingrid. Yusef Lateef's Audiophysiopsychic Quest. Daedalus, 148/2(2019).)


1920 Born, Chattanooga, TN.

1925 Family moves to Detroit, MI.

Graduates from Sidney D. Miller High School.

1940 Begins to play professionally.

1943 Contemporaneous event: rebellion in Detroit.

c. 1948 Joins the Ahmadiyya Movement, an inclusive, multiracial Islamic community with historical connections to Marcus Garvey’s United Negro Improvement Association.

1948-9 Plays with the Dizzy Gillespie Orchestra.

1950s Contributes to the Jazz scene in Detroit.

Attends Wayne State University in Composition and flute performance.

1957 Serves as imam of Ahmadiyya mosque in Detroit.

1960 Moves to NYC.

1969 BA, flute performance, Manhattan School of Music

1970 MA, Mus. Ed., Manhattan School of Music

1971-5 Instructor at Borough of Manhattan Community College (fired days before eligibility for tenure).

1975 EdD, University of Massachusetts, Amherst

1875-80 Lives abroad/travels with family.

1981 Retires from nightclub performance. Repository of Scales and Melodic Patterns, published.

1981-5 Senior research fellow, Center for Nigerian Cultural Studies, Ahmadu Bello University, Nigeria.

1983 Records album In Nigeria in Lagos, with Hausa, Yoruba, and Tiv drummers.

1987 Grammy Award, Best New Age Recording: Yusef Lateef’s Little Symphony Publishes Hausa Performing Arts and Music, with Ziky Kofoworola 1987-2002 Instructor, UMass Amherst

Chronolgy compiled from: Helgert (2021), Macías (2010) and Monson (2019)


51 Linear Feet (22 Hollingers, 14 Oversize boxes, 3 small-med. boxes of artifacts, 5 musical instruments )

Language of Materials



The Yusef A. Lateef Collection consists of scores, correspondence, promotional materials, audio recordings, photographs, and other documents of the composer's life and creative works. The bulk of the materials are related to Lateef's work as a composer, musician and teacher. Most of the recordings in the collection are digitized and available through Vanderbilt's Aviary platform. Among the recordings and printed materials are documents from his fieldwork in Nigeria. Lateef was born in Chattanooga in 1920 and moved to Detroit, where he began his career as a jazz musician playing with Dizzy Gillespie and other giants. Lateef joined the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community in the late 1940s and his spirituality was an evident part of his creative work and supported his dedication to teaching. Lateef also had an interest in world music, experimenting with different timbral pallets on several of his albums and the collection contains seven musical instruments of African and Asian origin.

Physical Location

Offsite Storage, Special Collections & Archives

NMAAM-Vanderbilt University Collections Initiative

Purchased through the NMAAM-Vanderbilt University Collections Initiative.

Separated Materials

Some books were removed from this collection and cataloged as part of the Anne Potter Wilson Music Library's circulating collection.

  • When the collection was purchased, Sara Manus (then Music Liaison Librarian) removed published materials from the collection. Some were deposited with the Music Library, other were offered to other libraries such as the Divinity Library and were declined. No inventory was provided at the time of processing.
Finding Aid for The Yusef A. Lateef Collection
In Progress
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Revision Statements

  • August 2023: Box numbering changed to reflect Box/Oversize/Artifact/Musical Instruments as distinct series of numbers.

Repository Details

Part of the Vanderbilt University Special Collections Repository

Special Collections Library
1101 19th Ave. S.
Nashville TN 37212 United States


About this Site

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