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Mural honors Motor City’s musicians

Jazz legend joins the ancestors

By Steve Furay
Special to the Michigan Citizen

On Dec. 23, 2013, Detroit jazz legend Yusef Lateef passed away at the age of 93, marking a lifetime of greatness from one of the city’s true ambassadors of sound. A composer, educator and instrumentalist, “Yusef Lateef’s Detroit” album is celebrated for its tribute to his hometown, where he grew as a player of multiple instruments, most notably tenor saxophone and flute, alongside many other jazz greats.

Detroit has been the home of many jazz icons, and the passing of Yusef Lateef leaves the world with one less scholar from an era where many jazz albums were just as popular as many of the R&B and pop records of the day. Along Jefferson Ave., on Detroit’s lower east side, a faded and torn photo mural, called “Detroit Jazz All-Stars,” hangs onto the walls of a commercial strip, giving remembrance to Motor City jazz legends.

Famous names highlight the mural, including legends like trumpeter Donald Byrd, Stevie Wonder and the Funk Brothers and bassist Ron Carter, each one considered some of the music industry’s all time great recording artists.

Alice Coltrane’s photo is a tribute to her ingenuity and passion as a composer, who alongside husband John Coltrane crafted jazz devotionals for peace and enlightenment. J Dilla is the lone hip hop artist represented in the mural, recognized for his mastery of including jazz into the most soulful sound hip hop had ever heard.

Other artists in the mural include Major Holley (upright bass), Charles Moore (trumpet), Lyman Woodward (organ and electric piano), Paul Chambers (upright bass), Tommy Flanagan (piano), Sippie Wallace (singer), Milt Jackson (vibraphones), Kenny Burrell (guitar), Wardell Gray (tenor saxophone), and brothers Elvin Jones (drums), Thad Jones (trumpet) and Hank Jones (piano).

Every one of these artists came with their own mastery and personal story, to be honored and carried forth as a piece of the city’s legacy of music.


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