A fitting farewell
From the Summer 2004 issue.
By Herbie Mann and Phil Woods
Telarc Records: 2004
To hear sound clips or learn more about this release, Turbula recommends viewing its Amazon.com entry.
Always an innovator, the seminal jazz flautist Herbie Mann was largely responsible for bringing his instrument into general acceptance in the field as he pioneered, along with Dizzy Gillespie, early forays into what would become known as "world music."
"Beyond Brooklyn", Mann's last recording before he passed away from prostate cancer last year, is aptly titled. Born in Brooklyn in 1930, Mann lived in the city for the first fifty-nine years of his life. Musically, though, Herbie Mann was always a traveler. He was among the first American jazz musicians to embrace Brazilian music when he helped usher in the Bossa Nova craze with his album "Do the Bossa Nova with Herbie Mann." He led a restless search thereafter for new sounds, traveling to Africa, Asia, South America and Japan, where he melded American jazz sensibilities to the regional sounds on scores of albums.
"Beyond Brooklyn" teams the late flute master with alto saxophonist Phil Woods, a bebopper from way back in the days when he and Mann got their start, playing together in 1951 in home grounds in Brooklyn for small change. Fifty years later they teamed up again, on a set that explores the jazz styles of the tango, Bossa Nova, ballads, bebop and old world traditions.
Paul Desmond, who had the alto sax chair in the Dave Brubeck Quartet for so many years and so many classic albums, had a horn tone that has been described as "the sound of a dry martini." If we're talking drinks, you'd have to say Phil Woods, on his alto, blows with the sound of a whiskey sour: full-bodied with a satisfying tartness around the edges. Herbie Mann on flute: the sound of a tall, cool mint julep, of course.
This set, with these two masters, is classic, every tune a highlight. Mann on ballads is particularly compelling. His take on Antonio Carlos Jobim's "Caminhos Cruzados" might be the most breathtakingly beautiful jazz song released this year smooth and cool, riding on a floating Brazilian rhythm. Mann had a very lyrical approach to balladry, a way of phrasing like a vocalist. The arrangement here, a spare guitar and piano accompaniment, with drums and bass just a whisper of an undercurrent, drifts along on an ethereal groove; absolutely gorgeous!
Mann and Woods bop like crazy on Charlie Parker's "Au Privave"; and "Jelek" pushes the mood into exotic territory, with Indian percussion and the seldom heard alto trombone in the mix, a horn that sounds especially haunting here.
Ellington's "Azure" features Woods on clarinet, on a drifting melody that embraces the pure loveliness of the piece, while Billy Strayhorn's "Blood Count" and Randy Weston's "Little Niles" feature Woods on his tangy alto.
I could go on forever. This is a wonderful set, essential to fans of jazz flute, and a perfect travelogue of Herbie Mann's musical journey "Beyond Brooklyn."
Review by Dan McClenaghan. Dan is a writer living in Oceanside, Calif. Read his biography on his AllAboutJazz.com page.