Herbie Mann - flute; David "Fathead" Newman - tenor sax, flute; Pat Rebillot - electric piano; Sonny Sharrock - guitar; Andy Musson - bass; Reggie Ferguson - drums
Introduced as "the funky one with the flute," Herbie Mann took the stage at Yankee Stadium on this Saturday evening and immediately got the party started with an energized rendition of "(Gimme Some of That Gold Old) Soul Beat Momma," a steady funk-rock vamp that has the leader exchanging flute phrases upfront with David "Fathead" Newman before peeling off to wail with abandon over the groove. Newman, a longtime featured member of the Ray Charles Orchestra and introduced by Mann as "the newest member of our family," steps forward to deliver a robust tenor sax solo in the middle of this spirited jam that kicks off the set in upbeat fashion. Keyboardist Pat Rebillot also contributes a spiky solo on the Wurlitzer electric piano and as the rest of the band drops out near the end, Mann and Newman conclude the piece on a more serene note with contrapuntal flute lines weaving in and out of each other.
From that funky workout, they head into a restful balladic reading of the Michael Jackson signature tune, "Never Can Say Goodbye" (which Mann had previously recorded on his best-selling 1971 album Push Push). The renowned flutist soars majestically on this mellow number while Newman turns in a remarkably soulful tenor sax solo that is imbued with vocal phrasing and underscored with gospel fervor. Next up is "Memphis Underground," the title track of Mann's hit album from 1969. A funky vehicle for Mann's most extensive flute solo of the set, this groove-oriented number also features Rebillot on another edgy electric piano solo and guitarist Sharrock (who had come up in avant garde jazz circles with the likes of Byard Lancaster and Pharoah Sanders) pushing the envelope into the danger zone with a thrashing, proto-punk freakout six-string solo that goes totally against the grain of Mann's accessible sound.
Following a riotous eruption of applause by the Yankee Stadium crowd, Mann and his crew encore with an ebullient reading of the Isaac Hayes/David Porter tune "Hold On! I'm Coming," a smash hit for the R&B duo Sam & Dave in 1966. Mann and Newman engage in some lively call-and-response on this soul staple, bringing their set to an exhilarating conclusion.
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 congero 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 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)