Herbie Mann - flute; Chick Ganimian - oud; Roy Ayers - vibraphone; Reggie Workman - bass; Bruno Carr - drums; Special guest:; Michael Babatunde Olatunji - African percussion; Gabor Szabo - guitar; Albert Mangelsdorf - trombone; Dizzy Gillespie - trumpet
A dedicated bebopper during the 1940s who would become a world music pioneer during the 1960s, flutist and native New Yorker Herbie Mann made his Newport Jazz Festival debut in 1959 and appeared several times thereafter. For this exhilarating 1967 Newport performance, Mann demonstrated his adeptness at organically combining world music and jazz. Accompanied by a flexible and open-minded crew of vibraphonist Roy Ayers (who would later become a funk-jazz innovator during the 1970s), bassist Reggie Workman (a member of the John Coltrane Quartet of 1961), drummer Bruno Carr and Armenian-American oud virtuoso Chick Ganimian, Mann opens with a Turkish folk song, "Yavuz" that has the flutist wailing freely over the percolating groove. Ganimian's oud solo is strictly in the tradition as Carr swings the proceedings underneath along with bassist Workman. Ayers adds a glistening vibes solo to this driving opener. Next they put an exotic, Middle Eastern spin on the Lennon/McCartney number "Norwegian Wood." Ayers, who released his debut album (Virgo Vibes) on the Atlantic label around the time of this Newport concert, turns in a scintillating vibes solo on this radical remake of that Beatles tune. And Ganimian again wails on his slightly distorted oud (the tinge of dirty feedback on this acoustic world instrument gives it just a bit of rockish edge). Mann's introspective duet with Workman's bass toward the end of this invigorating piece is imbued with deep soul and an inward searching quality.
After relating a story about his U.S. State Department tour of Africa in 1960, Mann introduces Nigerian percussion master Michael Babatunde Olatunji, who joins the group for a cross-cultural rendition of Sonny Rollins' buoyant calypso, "St. Thomas." Mann follows with his Afro-Cuba flavored original "More Rice Than Peas, Please," an infectious number from the flutist's 1967 album, The Beat Goes On, that has him soloing with wild abandon over an entrancing son montuno groove and features a brilliant vibes solo from Ayers. For his set-closing extravaganza, Mann brings out Nigerian percussionist Olatunji, Hungarian guitarist Gabor Szabo, German trombonist Albert Mangelsdorf and special guest Dizzy Gillespie, the godfather of melding Afro-Cuban music and American jazz. Together they launch into Gillespie's "A Night in Tunisia" that features extraordinary solos from Ayers, Gillespie and Mangelsdorf. Mann himself blows over that famous break in the tune (done on alto sax by Charlie Parker on the historic 1946 Dial recording of that Dizzy bebop anthem). The band also drops out for a percussion solo by Olatunji before they return to bring the tune to a rousing finale. For a bit of levity, Gillespie then dips into his standard closing, a slow blues that lasts just long enough for him to sing, "WELLL…bye!" The enthusiastic audience brings Mann's group back for an encore, and they deliver a spirited rendition of his Middle East flavored tune "In the Medina" (from The Beat Goes On) along with the alluring bossa nova "A Man and a Woman" (from the 1966 French film of the same name), which neatly segues to Steve Winwood's early 1967 hit song for the Spencer Davis Group, "I'm a Man." While Mann would later make huge concessions to commercialism in his career, he makes no compromises on this intriguing, invigorating Newport set.
A Brooklyn native, Mann was born Herbert Jay Solomon on April 16, 1930. He started off on clarinet at age nine, inspired by Benny Goodman, before switching over to tenor sax and flute. After a stint in the Army, he got his first professional experience with Mat Mathews' Quintet in 1953 before stepping out as a leader in his own right the following year. From 1954 to 1958, Mann collaborated with several like-minded young beboppers on the scene, including alto saxophonist Phil Woods, tenor saxophonist Charlie Rouse and fellow flutist Sam Most. In 1959, he formed his Afro-Jazz Sextet and embarked on U.S. State Department-sponsored tours of Africa and Brazil. He returned to Brazil in 1962 to record a bossa nova album with Antonio Carlos Jobim and Baden Powell. Through the '60s, Mann 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. He scored a hit in 1969 with Memphis Underground, which featured guitarists Coryell and Sharrock, bassists Donald "Duck" Dunn and Chuck Rainey and drummers Al Jackson and Bernard Purdie and was recorded at the famed Muscle Shoals Studio in Memphis, Tennessee. 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 1990s, 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. (Bill Milkowski)