Herbie Mann - flute; David "Fathead" Newman - tenor sax, flute; Pat Rebillot - piano; Bob Mann - guitar; Gerry Freidman - guitar; Carlos "Patato" Valdez - congas; Bob Babbitt - bass; Andrew Smith - drums
Following his success at the 1972 Newport Jazz Festival, when he brought his sextet to Yankee Stadium for a sizzling set, flutist-bandleader Herbie Mann returned to George Wein's annual bash (relocated to New York City the previous year) with an expanded lineup that featured two guitarists (former Dreams axe man Bob Mann and New York session guitarist Jerry Friedman) along with renowned Motown session bassist Bob Babbitt (a member of the Motown studio rhythm section, the Funk Brothers, from 1966 to 1972) and Cuban conguero Carlos "Patato" Valdes, a longstanding member of Mann's band since the late '50s. The secret weapon in the band remained saxophonist David "Fathead" Newman, whose bold tenor sax work added to the earthy charm of the Ray Charles band from 1954 to 1966. Rounded out by guitarist Mann, stalwart Pat Rebillot on keyboards, and Andrew Smith on drums, this special edition of the Herbie Mann Group thrilled the Carnegie Hall audience with funk oriented material from the flutist's best-selling 1971 album Push Push, along with a few surprises thrown in.
The flutist opens his June 30th set with the title track of Push Push. With the interlocking guitars of Friedman's chording and Bob Mann's wah-wah inflected single note lines setting a requisitely funky tone and drummer Smith locking in with bassist Babbitt and Patato's Afro-Cuban pulse, Mann soars freely over the top on an extended flute solo. Newman then enters with his potent tenor playing, lending some grit to this soulful jam. A highlight of this infectious Afro-Cuban flavored funk-rock crossover number is the spirited breakdown between Mann's flute and Valdes' congas near the end of the piece. The ensemble then slides into a soothing instrumental rendition of the Jackson 5 hit single from 1971, "Never Can Say Goodbye." Taken as a ballad, this mellow number (which also appeared on Mann's Push Push) might be considered a precursor of the smooth jazz movement which would emerge more than a decade later. Newman's relaxed tenor work here is particularly lyrical and expressive, imbued with the kind of uncanny soulfulness and jazzy abandon that would later mark his lengthy career as a solo artist through the '80s , '90s and up until his death in 2009.
The energized rock/R&B number "Turtle Bay," title track of Mann's current album out at the time, is a showcase for the twin flutes of the leader and Newman. Bob Mann also turns in a soulful Memphis styled guitar solo here. Newman is next showcased in all his bluesy, gospel-tinged glory on a faithful rendition of a Ray Charles staple "Nighttime is the Right Time" (a Roosevelt Sykes number penned in 1937 and subsequently recorded by everyone from Big Bill Broonzy to Nappy Brown, B.B. King, Rufus Thomas, Tina Turner, and Creedence Clearwater Revival). Mann also turns in a particularly inspired flute solo on this slow blues, while Newman testifies with sanctified fervor on his urgent tenor solo. They close out their exhilarating set (part of an Atlantic Records showcase at Carnegie Hall that also featured Donny Hathaway) with Mann's theme song, the title track to his best-selling 1969 album, Memphis Underground. The leader unleashes Patato and drummer Smith on this parting rock-fueled jam.
A dedicated bebopper in the late 1940s and early 1950s (he collaborated with several like-minded young beboppers on the scene during those years, including alto saxophonist Phil Woods, tenor saxophonist Charlie Rouse, and fellow flutist Sam Most), Brooklyn native Mann began combining world music with jazz by the mid-'50s. His adventurous set at the 1959 Newport Jazz Festival with his Afro-Jazz Sextet featured an organic blend of 4/4 swing and mesmerizing Afro-Cuban grooves, courtesy of a percolating battery of percussion from Cuban conguero Carlos "Patato" Valdes, Puerto Rican bongo ace Jose Mangual (a member of the pioneering Machito Orchestra of the late '40s and early '50), and drummer Santos Miranda. In 1962, Mann toured Brazil, where he recorded a pioneering bossa nova album with Antonio Carlos Jobim and Baden Powell. Through the '60s, he employed several promising young players who would later go on to lead their own bands, including pianist Chick Corea, vibist Roy Ayers, and guitarists Atilla Zoller, Larry Coryell, and Sonny Sharrock, bassist Miroslav Vitous, and drummer Billy Cobham. Mann scored a hit in 1969 with Memphis Underground, which was recorded at the famed Muscle Shoals Studio in Memphis and featured a stellar cast of guitarists Coryell and Sharrock, bassists Donald "Duck" Dunn and Chuck Rainey, and drummers Al Jackson and Bernard Purdie. He followed that success with 1971's Push Push, which featured guitarist Duane Allman of the Allman Brothers Band.
By the 1970s, Mann began crossing over into more commercial areas, incorporating elements of pop, rock, funk, reggae, and even disco into his recordings for the Atlantic label. He gradually returned to jazz in the '80s and formed his own label in the '90s, Kokopelli Records. He passed away in Santa Fe, New Mexico, on July 1, 2003, following an extended battle with prostate cancer. His last record was 2004's posthumously released Beyond Brooklyn for Telarc. (Milkowski)