Herbie Mann, credited as
being one of the seminal jazz flutists, is probably best known for the musical odyssey that has taken him around the world. Long before
the concept "worldmusic" was coined, he was exploring the rhythms and harmonies of
Africa, India, Cuba, Jamaica, the Middle East and Japan. But the country whose music has
most influenced his
playing and most touched his heart is Brazil - more about this later.
Herbie Mann was born
in Brooklyn, New York, on April l6, l930, as Herbert Jay Solomon. He expressed his love of music by using the only resources available --
pots and pans. In an attempt to pacify disgruntled neighbors, his mother tried to
re-channel his musical interests by taking him to a Benny Goodman concert at the Paramount when he was
nine years old. It worked and two weeks later he had a clarinet. Though the academics
of music were never appealing to
his love of playing and music were what turned his focus eventually to the tenor saxophone and later to the that instrument with which he's
been so identified, the flute. By fourteen he was playing tenor at gigs in the Catskills and
in l948 he entered the US Army where he spent nearly four years in Trieste, Italy, playing with
the 98th Army Band.
Once he was out of the Army and back on the New York music scene, he
worked hard at carving out a place for himself. However, like so many other tenor
saxophone players of that time,
style was derivative of Lester Young's so it was difficult to stand out from the rest. When the Dutch accordionist, Mat Matthews, told him he was
looking for a jazz flute player for the first album by the then unknown Carmen McRae,
Herbie Mann immediately jumped at the opportunity and spent days "woodshedding" before going
into the studio. With this opportunity he was able to distinguish himself from other
players as a jazz flutist, of which there were only a handful.
reputation as a flutist took a distinctive turn in l958, when he followed
legendary jazz DJ Symphony Sid Torin's suggestion that he add a conga player to
his group. This added rhythmic element boosted
Herbie Mann's popularity
and the list of Latin percussionists who played with him in the late 50's and 60's reads like a Who's Who
of the genre: Candido, Ray Barretto, Olatunji, Potato Valdes, Willie Bobo and others.
Audiences around the world loved this sound. It was during this period that he recorded the
legendary HERBIE MANN AT THE VILLAGE GATE album and did a month long tour of Africa for the
Despite his increased popularity,
Herbie Mann felt
frustrated by the simplicity of the Latin and African melodies and the monotony of their rhythms. So, in l961 when
he heard about a tour of American players going to Brazil, he convinced his manager,
Monty Kay, that he had to go, too. This experience changed his musical life more than any
other experience before or since. At last here were complex, beautiful melodies supported by
One trip wasn't enough so soon after his return he convinced his
record company, Atlantic, to sponsor an extended visit to Brazil to record his next album. On
this trip he met many of
Brazil's then emerging musical talents including Sergio Mendes,
Antonio Carlos Jobim, and Baden Powell.
Contact Grabow for more information or to book
Herbie Mann for your next corporate or private event.