Wednesday, 22 September 2010
With the possible exception of Ron Burgundy, Herbie Mann did more for the jazz flute than anyone in the history of music.
Tootling from the early fifties until his death in 2003, Mann released a staggering number of LP’s, collaborated with more or less everybody and sucked up forty years of musical change through one end of his flute and blew it out of the other in his own uniquely cool, groovy style.
‘Stone Flute’ was released in 1974. It’s a pretty strange album, especially as Mann was better known at the time for his hip but undemanding interpretations of pop hits and his relentlessly punning album titles (‘A Mann Alone’; ‘A Mann & A Woman’, 'Family Of Mann'...well, you get the idea).
Initially, ‘Stone Flute’ sounds like laidback jazz funk lite music for a lazy, sunny afternoon at the yacht club but, on closer listening, reveals itself as a shimmering, shifting tangle of meandering melodies, subsonic wanderings and surreal non sequiters that drifts in and out of hearing like snatches of sound from a hypnogogic half-dream. Yes, I have been reading some big books lately.
‘Flying’ is a languorous cover of the only Beatles track written by all four moptops, and the only instrumental they ever released. Herbie turns flying into floating then into drowning, slowing the tempo and making it all mysterious, like.
‘Miss Free Spirit’ is a long, languid, absent-minded piece, and Herbie really stretches out, presiding over a stripped down arrangement, occasionally leaning in to blow some flute. The last couple of minutes of the track are absolutely the essence of what I was running on about above – odd, disjointed, dreamlike, a long fade into the ether.
‘Stone Flute’ is readily available, usually for less than ten pounds, from all the usual places that sell odd, dreamlike jazz flute records. You should get one, man(n).