Herbie Mann

The most famous flutist in jazz history, Herbie Mann (1930-2003) explored a wide variety of music during his busy career. In the 1950s, when he recorded some fine sessions for Prestige and Riverside, he was a bop improviser.

Mann started on clarinet when he was nine but soon switched to flute and tenor sax. He served in the Army, worked during 1953-1954 with accordionist Mat Mathews’s Quintet, and then went out on his own, recording straight-ahead jazz for the next five years.

Although he had been preceded by Sam Most, Frank Wess, and a couple of others, it was Herbie Mann who established the flute as a serious solo instrument in jazz and pop music. He recorded for several labels during 1954-1958. Flute Soufflé teams him with fellow flutist Bobby Jaspar in a sextet in which both also play a bit of tenor. Sultry Serenade, has Mann performing with a pianoless sextet and quartet that has guitarist Joe Puma as a key player. Great Ideas of Western Mann is possibly the first album to feature a jazz soloist exclusively on bass clarinet. Mann is in excellent form on his atmospheric horn, heading a quintet that includes trumpeter Jack Sheldon and pianist Jimmy Rowles and jamming such numbers as “Get Out of Town” and “Is It True What They Say About Dixie.” Just Wailin’, Mann’s last straight-ahead project before he switched directions, shows that he could hold his own with the likes of tenor saxophonist Charlie Rouse, guitarist Kenny Burrell, and pianist Mal Waldron on challenging hard-bop material.

Mann formed the Afro-Jazz Sextet in 1959, explored Brazilian music at the birth of the bossa-nova era, had a hit with “Comin’ Home Baby,” kept his repertoire open to pop music and funk, and along the way also performed rock, reggae, and even disco. Near the end of his life, Herbie Mann returned to the straight-ahead jazz that he excelled at in the 1950s.