Sunday, April 30, 2006

Latitude 42°30' - Longitude 83°

Yesterday's post reminded me of this record. I remember seeing a picture of it on the inner sleeve of another record, and thinking, "I'll never ever find that one...". But somehow, a copy turned up. It has a rare and special quality. This is jazz, with a funk edge, but it is a perfect example of jazz as reportage, describing a community through music. You might have Left Your Heart in San Francisco, you might love New York, New York, you might dream of Galveston, you might even hear London Calling, but only one city has an entire album capturing its everyday scenes and sounds... Latitude 42°30' - Longitude 83°, Yusef Lateef's Detroit...

Let's start our tour, with the words of Saeeda Lateef...

"Detroit. Automobiles. G.M., C.M., A.M. Mark of Excellence! Factories, foundries, gases, grease, grime, smoke, black-out, shake-out, lay pipe, cement: mixer, mixing. Metal. Black sand, Sweet Sweat. Dig ditch, fill hole, carry hod, shift weight, carry hod, step back! Carry hod.
Stage show! Arcade, Dunbar, Castle, Willis and Warfield - potatoes for admission on Saturday between 12:30 and 4:00 pm. Fifteen cents, otherwise. Freedom of action, unrestricted. Thirteen Spirits of Swing - Matthew Rucker, Milt Buckner. The Duke, The Count, The King, The Prince, The Earl. Royalty at its BEST! Sessions at the West End ... Joe Brazil's basement...
Wide boulevards, welfare shoes with cardboard soles ... but shoes! Walking, delivering newspapers, tear down old barn, sell wood, rags - good old, sweet old, happy old ragman - rusty old iron man. Howling dogs. Withered old fishermen. Fishing, Detroit River, river ripples, blue lakes, perch; WOW! A lake-trout! Two feet long! Right out of the river - the Detroit River.
One tree. One big tree in the Bishop School yard. A little exercise bar beneath it. Goat-Latin, hamburgers, doughnuts (day old, week old). Bulldog gingerbeer. Milk and graham-crackers. Drwaing pictures of favorite funnypaper characters ... Barney Google, Spark Plug, Skippy, Olive Oyl and Popeye, Little Orphan Annie and Sandy. Mary Jane and Dum-Dum suckers. Hide and seek - FUN! eduf - da -iduf - da - oduf -da - eduf - da- oduf..."

Yusef Lateef's Detroit (Atlantic SD1525 1969)

Continue our tour of Yusef Lateef's Detroit at these posts: Eastern Market, Woodward Avenue, and Belle Isle.

A CD of this classic description of growing up in pre-60s Detroit can be found at A biography of Yusef Lateef can be found at

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