Smorgasbord Blog Magazine – The Music Column with William Price King – Herbie Mann #Flutist

Welcome to the Music Column with William Price King, and this week William is sharing the life and music of flutist Herbie Mann.

Herbert Jay Solomon (April 16, 1930 – July 1, 2003), known by his stage name Herbie Mann, was an American jazz flutist and important early practitioner of world music. Early in his career, he also played tenor saxophone and clarinet (including bass clarinet), but Mann was among the first jazz musicians to specialize on the flute. His most popular single was “Hijack”, which was a Billboard No. 1 dance hit for three weeks in 1975.

Mann emphasized the groove approach in his music. Mann felt that from his repertoire, the “epitome of a groove record” was Memphis Underground or Push Push, because the “rhythm section locked all in one perception.”

Herbie Mann was born in Brooklyn, New York to Harry C. Soloman who was of Russian descent and Ruth Rose who was Romanian, born in Austria-Hungary, who had come to the United States when she was six years old. Both his parents where singers and dancers and they taught Herbie to dance as well as encouraged his musical talent. This was evident early as his first professional performance was at the age of only 15 in 1945 playing at the iconic Catskills resorts. His career took off in the 1950s an he began performing as a bop flutist, playing in combos with artists such as Phil Woods, but also occasionally playing bass clarinet, tenor saxophone and solo flute.

He was an early pioneer of the fusion of jazz and world music and in 1950, following a State Department sponsored tour of Africa, he recorded Flautista, an album of Afro-Cuban Jass. He toured Brazil and was inspired, on his return to the US, to record with Brazilian musicians including Antonio Carlos Jobim. The albums helped to bring bossa nova to the United States and also Europe.

The Bill Evan’s Trio, featuring Chuck Israels on bass and Paul Motian on the drums joined Herbie Mann to record the 1964 album Nirvana, released on the Atlantic label. Here, two jazz greats create melodic harmony in an exciting bebop* context.

• Bebop – the term ‘bebop’, derived from nonsense syllables used in scat singing, is a style of jazz developed in the early to mid-1940s in the US featuring songs characterized by a fast tempo, complex chord progressions with rapid chord changes and numerous key changes. This allows instrumental virtuosity, and improvisation based on a combination of harmonic structure, and occasional references to the melody. Bebop was not intended for dancing.

 Memphis Underground, one of the best-selling jazz albums of all time, is a funky jazz flute album that mixes laid back Memphis R&B with Jamaican reggae and touches of fusion and rock. Rolling Stone said “Memphis Underground is a piece of musical alchemy, a marvelously intricate combination of the ‘ Memphis sound’ and jazz lyricism.” The album was recorded in Chips Moman’s American Studios in Memphis, a studio used by many well-known R&B and pop artists at that time. ‘ Memphis Underground’ was engineered and produced by Tom Dowd. Other than Herbie Mann the principal soloists were Roy Ayers, Larry Coryell, and Sonny Sharrock, all of whom were leading jazz musicians.

Following the 1969 Memphis Underground, there was a period of declined interest in Jazz, however a number of smooth jazz albums, influenced by Southern Soul, blues, reggae and disco, kept Herbie Mann performing, despite purist jazz fans and critics reservations. The albums kept more than Herbie Mann in work, as the other artists were some of the best-known and requested session musicians of the time. Herbie also enjoyed some pop hits which was unusual for a jazz musicians and had at least 25 albums in the Billboard 200 pop charts.

Mann was also known for his classical jazz fusion pieces, broadening his appeal into yet another music style.

“My Little Ones“, from the album ‘Concerto Grosso in D Blues’ which merges jazz and classical music, was written for Mann’s children and recorded in 1968. This wistful piece is at once loving and soaring, and is perfectly sustained by the double string quartet. This album successfully spans the decades from Tachaikovsky to Stockhausen, and from New Orleans to free jazz.

“Peace Piece”, composed by Bill Evans, bears some resemblance to Chopin’sBerseuses in D♭ major’. Both pieces use a two-chord left-hand ostinato* throughout, and both have an ornamented melodic line. This is a perfect example of the depth of Evans’ compositional technique. In this jazzy version there is a well thought out multiple flute arrangement (Mann overdubbed his flutes to create an orchestral sound) and the composition evolves into a delicate ensemble piece featuring Randy Brecker on the flugelhorn. Although there are many discordant notes, this is a peaceful song.

*Ostinato – a continually repeated musical phrase or rhythm.

In the early 1970s Herbie Mann formed Embryo Records producing jazz albums for other artists such as Ron Carter, Phil Woods and Dick Morrissey.

America/Brasil is a celebratory album marking Mann’s 65th birthday (April 1995). The emphasis here is on Mann’s Brazilian side and is as vibrant as the musical cultures it represents. Recorded live, the expertly arranged performances leave plenty of solo space and throughout Mann leads the way with Randy Brecker and Claudio Roditi on trumpet, Jim Pugh on trombone, Sergio Brandao on bass, Romero Lubambo on guitar, Ricky Sebastian on drums, and Cyro Baptiste on percussions.

His last appearance was on May 3, 2003, at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival and he died less than two months later on July 1, 2003, at the age of 73, after a long battle with prostate cancer.

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About William Price King

William Price King is an American jazz singer, crooner, and composer.

His interest in music began at an early age when he studied piano and clarinet in high school. At Morehouse College in Atlanta where he grew up, he sang in the Glee Club and studied classical music. After graduation he went off to the Yale School of Music where he earned a Masters degree. From there he journeyed to New York where he created a jazz trio ‘Au Naturel’ which performed in some of the hottest venues in Manhattan including gigs on Broadway and the famous ‘Rainbow Room.’ These gigs opened doors for performances in Montreal and a European tour.

While touring Europe he met a lovely French lady, Jeanne Maïstre, who, a year later became his wife. King left the group ‘Au Naturel’ and settled in the south of France where he started a new life on the French Riviera, opening his own music school – the “Price King Ecole Internationale de Chant.” He has had the pleasure over the years of seeing many of his students excel as singers on a professional level, and some going on to become national celebrities. He continues to coach young singers today, in his spare time.

His debut jazz album was entitled “Home,” and was a collection of contemporary compositions he composed, with lyrics written by his wife Jeanne King. His second album was a Duo (Voice and Guitar) with Eric Sempé on the guitar. This album included original songs as well as well known standards from contemporary jazz and pop artists. The “King-Sempé” duo toured France and thrilled audiences for more than three years before going their separate ways. King has formed a new duo with French/Greek guitarist Manolis, and is now exploring new ideas, in a smooth jazz/soul/folk direction.

In addition to singing and composing, King has been collaborating with author Sally Cronin over the past few years on her blog “Smorgasbord – Variety is the spice of life,” with the series “A Man And His Music – Jazz, Contemporary, Classical, and Legends” and now, the “William Price King Music Column.” Working with author Sally Cronin has been an exhilarating experience in many ways and has brought a new dimension to King’s creative life. King has also created a micro blog, “Improvisation,” which features and introduces mostly jazz artists from across the jazz spectrum who have made considerable contributions in the world of jazz; and also artwork from painters who have made their mark in the world of art. This micro blog can be found on Tumblr.

His vocal mentors are two of the greatest giants in jazz, Nat King Cole and Mel Tormé. King has a distinctive wide-ranging voice which displays a remarkable technical facility and emotional depth.

William Price King on Tumblr – IMPROVISATION

Connect with William

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You can find all of the Music Column series in this directory:

8 thoughts on “Smorgasbord Blog Magazine – The Music Column with William Price King – Herbie Mann #Flutist

  1. Pingback: Smorgasbord Blog Magazine – Weekly Round Up – Christmas book promotions, Music, Humour, great food and fantastic guests. | Smorgasbord Blog Magazine

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