One usually knows a musician from his or her instrumental or compositional work. One gets close to the actual "voice" of the musician is if he/she is a singer, but there's something about the spoken voice, whether in an interview, a poem recitation or story telling, that lets through a very intimate aspect of the artist that is as revealing, if not at times more so, than the purely musical offering. Roots Run Deep, which combines Lateef's artistry on piano, saxophone and flute, with some poetic chants and short stories is one such very intimate portrait.
Our first glimpse in this portrait of the groundbreaking Lateef — a musician with a unique compositional language — is through his voice, which is vulnerable yet deep and strong. This happens with a simple yet touching chant that runs with the words "I see the tree/and the tree sees me," accompanied by Lateef's piano.
Producers Nicolas Humbert and Marc Parisotto point put that what they tried to do was splice the spoken word and the music, which were recorded on separate occasions, an idea they had after completing a documentary film on Lateef.
The stories titled "Cream Puff" and "Where is Lester" give us insights into the private life of the musician, his practice habits, aspirations and imagination involved in the daily work. Another story, called "Goodbye," is a touching third person observation of a funeral that is worthy of a James Baldwin in its incisive imagery and understated yet charged emotional content. The chants on the disc include "Motherless Child," which Lateef intones mournfully, with a resonant piano chord accompaniment.
The pieces with saxophone accompaniment recall the work of Jack Kerouac with Al Cohn and Zoot Sims, the casual poetry of American vernacular running in a nicely textured counterpoint to the saxophone, as in "Interior Monologue," which is a reflection on a slice of life moment and a meditation on death.
Poems, stories, music are all one here and flow together seamlessly providing an unusual insight into a great musician's poetics and personality.
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