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April 16: Herbie Mann

April 15, 2016

Herbie Mann (w/ Will Lee)Jazz flautist Herbie Mann (Solomon), an early explorer of world music following State Department tours of Africa in 1959 and Brazil in 1961, was born in Brooklyn on this date in 1930. Mann helped generate the bossa nova craze in the U.S. in the 1960s and worked with Brazilian musical themes throughout the decade. As a practitioner of fusion jazz and smooth jazz, as well as reggae and disco, he achieved a number of pop hits and a commercial success denied to most jazz players — many of whom passed through his bands, including Chick Corea, Larry Coryell, Chuck Rainey, Bill Evans, and Cissy Houston. In the early 1970s, “Unlike most of his contemporaries in jazz,” notes NPR’s Jazz Profiles, “when Mann began playing flute in 1940s he had no forefathers to learn from, no pioneers of jazz flute to idolize. He was forced to look elsewhere — both inside and outside of jazz — to develop his approach to jazz and the flute.... While Mann was a consistent winner of Down Beat critics’ polls for jazz flute, his broad palette of musical influences often found him at odds with many jazz purists. Some felt that Mann’s playing was directed towards a more pop-oriented audience; others thought he exhibited an unabashed sexuality that seemed worlds apart from the serious demeanor of the bebop generation.” Mann founded his own label, Embryo Records, which recorded Ron Carter, Dick Morrissey, and Jim Mullen, as well as several other great players. To hear a 1961 recording at the Village Gate, look below. To see a full set at Newport Jazz in 1989, see below that.

“If you want to play somebody’s music, you’d better go into his house.” —Herbie Mann