Various Artists: Heavy Flute

Various Artists
Heavy Flute
Label M
2000-10-10

If you will forgive an already somewhat dated pop culture reference, in the words of South Park‘s Stan Marsh, this is sweet!

As the title and subtitle say, this is a collection of flute-based jazz/funk songs. I don’t want to get into another discussion of what the “jazz” label means, but all but a couple of tracks here sound far heavier on the funk to me. Cool and elegant like a James Bond theme, but with a sexy bottom, like…well, like a James Bond girl. Crazy.

Herbie Mann’s playful “Comin Home Baby” starts off the set, followed by the near-classical arrangement of “The Thirteenth Floor,” by David “Fathead” Newman. Yusef Lateef’s “Nubian Lady” is as sexy as a 19-year-old Phoebe Cates (or insert name of whoever does it for you), and is the top track here. Leo Wright’s “The Wriggler” wriggles itself to the same neighborhood as Mann. Hubert Laws’ “Let Her Go” and Lateef’s “Eboness” are the closest to straightforward jazz. Rahsaan Roland Kirk sputters, skwonks, gulps and even vocalizes while playing on “Ain’t No Sunshine” and “One Ton.” The latter can get a little monotonous to my ears, but you sure have to admire the versatility and energy of a man who plays tenor sax, flute, nose flute, gong, and whistle virtually (and sometimes literally) simultaneously. Charles Lloyd puts on the Latin jazz with “Sombrero Sam” and Mann’s “Push Push” pushes you back to the dance floor as he bookends the set.

The liner notes by co-producer Joel Dorn (who originally produced much of the material) make a case for the flute in jazz. “Along with Herbie, there’s Rahsaan, Yusef and Hubert Laws, who I think collectively did for the flute what Trane did for the soprano.” He doesn’t need to make his case, however. Once you have heard this album, all else is redundant.

This is one of the most purely pleasurable collections I’ve heard in a long time.

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