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Stick these in your iPod 

Yusef Lateef made records in an era when "hip" was still an organic state, and Detroit was a cool city from the ground up instead of from the government on down. The tenor saxophonist-flutist's 1950s albums for Savoy and Prestige exude an almost intangible coolness, something you feel instead of hear; even better, you feel cooler just for having heard it. Steve Wood counts The Dreamer, Prayer to the East, 1984 and Cry! — Tender among his favorite Yusef Lateef recordings. "I wasn't around when Lateef used to play the Flame Show Bar or the World Stage," he says, referencing two Detroit jazz havens of the era. "But whenever I listen to Lateef's music, I'm reminded of sitting in the basement with my buddies, shooting pool and listening to these records. When we got together, we didn't listen to the Beatles. We listened to Lateef."

Steve Wood's top Lateef albums:

Prayer to the East (1957)

The Dreamer (1959)

Cry! — Tender (1959)

1984 (1965)

Johnny Loftus is the music editor of Metro Times. Send comments to

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