Yusef Lateef - Portrait by Mati Klarwein - 1958

Yusef Lateef - Mati Klarwein - 1958
Yusef Lateef - Portrait by Mati Klarwein - 1958

In the fifties, jazz was the exciting music of the moment - Charlie Parker, Miles, MJQ, Gerry Mulligan.  But for me, that which I could identify with most was the influence of arab and african music and culture in black american music - the move toward a separate cultural identity, away from the white trash rectangular music.  It started with the substituting of christian names by muslim ones.  There was Ahmed Abdul Malek on the Oud with his Jazz-Sahara music, and there was Yusef Lateef, experimenting with flutes, reeds, bottles, balloons, home made string instruments and the use of fake arab words.  I would spend hours in Paris and Harlem looking for his records.  Here's another reverse example - instead of a record album using my painting, I use an album cover photo for my painting.

When the painting was completed I sent Yusef a photo of it and signed it with Abdul Mati Klarwein.  He replied promptly with a 'dear bro' letter, saying he would use it as soon as he could for an album cover.  Six months later I found myself in N.Y. listening to him play at the Five Spot.   During a break I went over to his table and introduced myself.  He looked at me with disdain and hardly greeted me.  When I told him I was the artist who did the painting he sneered and turned his back to me, resuming his conversation with a friend.  I forgot that love between colors is not always mutual.

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