SAM MOST- Jazz Flutist The "Father of Bebop Flute"
          SAM MOST- Jazz Flutist        The "Father of Bebop Flute"  

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All About Jazz - October 2006

Mort Weiss and Sam Most Mort Weiss Meets Sam Most: Recorded Live at Steamers 

If a quieter recording has been produced by a jazz quintet, I have yet to hear it. In fact, any listener who breathes too heavily while playing this CD may be forgiven for assuming the mute button has been activated.

Veteran clarinetist Mort Weiss and multi-woodwind player Sam Most, remembered by many as a flautist extraordinaire on the 1950s West Coast scene, prove on this thoughtful exchange that they no longer need to prove anything. These are seasoned musicians who have paid their performance dues many times over; all that remains is communication—with each other, with the audience present during this on-location March 2006 session, and finally with listeners to the album. With raconteurs of this caliber, what they have to say, even though it's a familiar story, bears repeating .

Weiss' is certainly the most heartening tale. Hounded and eventually overcome by various addictions, he dropped out of music entirely in the early 1960s, only to emerge sounding fitter and fresher than ever after a 35-year hiatus from his clarinet. His post-bop harmonic ideas, delayed articulations, and slightly behind-the-beat phrasing are reminiscent of Tony Scott, while his woody and cured tone, varied vibratos and pitch bends are apt to make you think of Eddie Daniels. On the opener—Miles Davis' "Four" (would even "Satin Doll" have been a more obvious, thread-worn choice?)—Weiss grabs the listener's attention during his solo with a quote from "Jitterbug Waltz," anticipating his fuller, near-virtuosic treatment of the same tune a few tracks later.

Sam Most surprises, first, by going with tenor saxophone on the program's first three selections and, second, by employing a sound that is closer to that of Weiss' clarinet than to virtually any other tenor player who comes to mind. Lester Young, himself a clarinetist, could make his tenor sound like its smaller, straight-shaped predecessor, but not as convincingly as Most does on this occasion. He provides so little breath support and fills so little of the chamber of the horn, the wonder is that he's able to extract anything that's even pitch-worthy. Any listener who has felt the earth move under foot during the withering, volcanic onslaught of a Roland Kirk tenor solo is likely to receive a jolt of a different sort by the nearly unrecognizable tenor sound produced by Kirk's antithesis on this recording.

It's when Most goes to his flute that the space separating him from Kirk as well as from his own early recordings all but vanishes. His solo on "Jitterbug Waltz" is nearly the equal of Weiss's in virtuosity and melodic ideas, while he chases away any trace of languor and sentiment from "Poor Butterfly" with a spirited, energetic solo that finds him double-tonguing while doubling the time and humming along with the sound of his flute.

By now the listener can sense the wisdom of starting the program with a set of overplayed, even tired "real book" standards, in an understated style likely to invite if not require the listener's focused attention rather than risk increasing impatience. Almost imperceptibly, the volume levels have been raised, the tempos increased, the melodic ideas pushed to greater complexity—all of it coming as the listener's "reward" for adjusting to the subtle dynamic parameters established during the first three selections.

 Not that there isn't any substance on the opening tunes, most notably from the Jim Hall-influenced guitar artistry of Ron Eschete, who inserts brief single-note patches primarily to set off the singular beauty of his chorded solos. His turn on "I'm Old Fashioned" is representative of what's to come: harmonized solos that never sacrifice clarity of line to overly crowded textures on the seven-string instrument and that employ voice-leading so judiciously there's rarely a forced moment or shaky transition in the harmonic narrative provided by guitar in its role as either accompanying or solo voice.

 As previously stated, these are musicians who have nothing to prove, but if some is required, they provide it with a closing "Donna Lee" taken at a tempo that's not a nanosecond slower than Wynton Marsalis' performance of the tune on last year's Live At The House Of Tribes. The tune also affords Weiss an opportunity to call attention to the unfailing, redoubtable support of drummer Ron McCurdy and bassist Luther Hughes, both of whom are so tightly integrated within this collective endeavor that it's apparent they have no more to prove than do the principals.

Younger musicians who still have the garage band mentality that seems to afflict most rock ensembles and many jazz-fusion aggregations, might do well to use this recording as an example of what can be accomplished by just five, probably unrehearsed, musicians who bring nothing to the bandstand except their instruments and a commonly shared repertory of tunes. This is a recording that retains the spontaneity of a jam session while distinguishing itself from most such affairs because of players who clearly know when to talk and when to listen.

Personnel: Mort Weiss: clarinet; Sam Most: flute, tenor saxophone and vocals; Ron Eschete: seven string guitar; Roy McCurdy: drums; Luther Hughes: acoustic bass.

Tracks: Four; I'm Old Fashioned; Night In Tunisia; I Got It Bad And That Ain't Good; Jitterbug Waltz; Poor Butterfly; With A Song In My Heart; My One And Only Love; Medley: Donna Lee/ (Almost) Blues in the Closet.

SAMUEL CHELL,  Published: October 18, 2006

 

November 1, 2012

Sam Most and Rein de Graaff – Bebop Revisited

 

© -Steven Cerra, copyright protected; all rights reserved.
 
It's not very often these days that one gets to visit with straight-ahead Beboppers.
Jazz, like everything else, is a “product-of-its-time,” and, as someone once said: “The times, they are-a-changing.”
Of course, today’s younger players re-visit Jazz standards from the Bebop canon, but they can’t help but reinterpret these tunes and to make them their own because they hear the music in a different way.
Boppers like Bird, Bud, Diz, Miles and even the subsequent hard-boppers like Horace Silver, Hank Mobley, Elmo Hope and Sonny Clark are not the influence that predominates in today’s Jazz.
Ornette Coleman, John Coltrane, Jazz-Rock fusion, World Music … these, and many others, are the influences that color contemporary Jazz.
Like all generalizations, there’s plenty of room for dispute in the one I’m asserting, but I’m making it to serve a point.
And the point is that you don’t often here music played today like the ten tracks that populate a recently released Timeless CD entitled – The Rein de Graff Trio Meets Sam Most [CDSJP-485].
Rein was kind enough to send the editorial staff at JazzProfiles a copy and I thought it would be nice bring it to your attention for a number of reason, not the least of which is because it contains a ton of good music.
Being a former drummer, let’s begin with my bias – the rhythm section which is made up of Rein on piano, Marius Beets [pronounced “Bates”] on bass and Eric Ineke on drums.
 
Rein, Marius and Eric play good time: it’s crisp with just the right amount of lift and push. There’s a marriage between Marius’ bass line and Eric’s cymbal beat. They blend together and don’t conflict with one another so the time has a buoyancy to it.
With the exception of Marius [the “youngster” in the group], Rein, Eric and Sam have each been “speaking Bebop” for over 50 years and they speak the “language of Bebop,” very well indeed.
This fluency makes the phrasing of their musical ideas sound almost effortless, but this simplicity of expression is the sign of a true master. Nothing is forced in the music on this recording, it all just flows.
Rein “comps” [accompanies] beautifully behind Sam; constantly feeding him chords, or nudging him with rhythmic phrases and Marius and Eric just lay down the rhythm with a solid, metronomic beat.
Nothing is rushed; nothing is pressed or strained. One gets a chance to hear the music play out.
Sam doesn’t have the biggest or most robust tone on flute, but his sound is pure, warm and mellow.
And he knows what he wants to say and, whatever the tempo, he just takes his time in expressing it.
In a way, Rein has the toughest “job” of all because he has to be a part of the rhythm section, accompany Sam and also perform as a soloist.
But on this recording, Rein more than rises to the occasion and plays throughout the CD with a consistent coherence of ideas and style that brings me back to why I was attracted to Bebop in the first place.
Since the opening track Alone Together sets the tone for what follows in the remainder of the recording, I thought perhaps I’d stop here and insert an audio-only version of the tune as an example of what I have discussing to this point.
© -Jeroen de Valk, copyright protected; all rights reserved.
 
Jeren de Valk's insert notes explain how the recording came about and some of its salient features.
“According to Sam Most's website, there should be no doubt about it: he was the world's first modern jazz soloist on the flute. In 1952 - he would turn 22 later that year - he recorded 'Undercurrent Blues' and thus made history. It would be impossible indeed to find an earlier recording with a decent bebop solo on the flute.
We do know for sure that Herbie Mann - a prominent flutist himself - gave his colleague full credit as a pioneer. Mann stated in an interview: "When I started playing jazz on flute, there was only one record out: Sam Most's 'Undercurrent Blues'. Not too many people know this, but Sam was also the first jazz flutist to sing and play together. The order of jazz flutists is Wayman Carver with the Chick Webb Band, Harry Klee with Phil Moore, and Sam Most - then the rest of us followed."
We know for sure as well that Sam Most was among the musician's musicians Dutch pianist Rein de Graaff would love to play with all his life. In his biography 'Belevenissen in Bebop' ('Adventures in Bebop', 1997), Rein mentions Sam Most as one of the lost heroes'; fine musicians who never became a household name, for various reasons and finally just seemed to have disappeared.
As Rein puts it, Sam happened to be 'at the wrong time at the wrong place'. "From the early 60s on, he worked mostly as a studio musician. As a result, he recorded extensively, but hardly ever as a leader. And: he was based inLos Angeles, not in New York, the country's jazz capital."
Rein, as a young man, adored the recordings Sam made for the Bethlehem label in the mid 50s. "After gaining experience in the reed sections of big bands, he won several jazz polls as a flutist. But after the 50s, I didn't hear from him again until the late 70s, when he was rediscovered by Don Schlitten, producer of the Xanadu label.
Schlitten featured him extensively, also as a member of the Xanadu All-Stars who were recorded live at the jazzfestival in Montreux. That was one of Sam's very rare appearances in Europe."
Schlitten reissued some of Most's earlier masterpieces and featured him on four albums as a leader during the period 1976-79; one of these, 'Mostly Flute", was awarded with the maximum of five stars in the prestigious All Music Guide to Jazz. According to the guide, 'Most makes the most difficult ideas sound effortless'.
A few years ago, Rein performed at the jazz festival organized by the Los Angeles Jazz Institute. "I checked the program and noticed there was a 'Sam Most Quintet' scheduled! I thought he had passed away long ago. Anyway, I attended his concert and he was just dynamite. I remember him opening with 'Confirmation': fast, precise and swinging real hard."
The two shook hands and agreed to do a tour together, late 2011, with Rein's regular trio, featuring Marius Beets on bass and Eric Ineke on drums. The trio toured and recorded through the years with literally hundreds of American visitors, including Johnny Griffin, Dexter Gordon, Sonny Stitt and many, many others. Rein: "We also backed quite some prominent flute players; Frank Wess, James Moody and Lew Tabackin, just to name a few." Eric Ineke has been part of the trio for over forty years. Marius, a generation younger, joined Rein in the late 90s.
Sam Most, in the Netherlands for the first time, turned out to be a kind, soft-spoken senior citizen. Rein: "Working with him was extremely easy. He reminded me of Al Cohn, with whom we had recorded as well. Al was doing crossword puzzles in the studio, as if he couldn't care less, but when it was time for him to blow, he played his brains off. We went into the recording studio with Sam after the tour. The band was so tight by that time, that we recorded solely tunes we hadn't done before on stage. We needed just one take for each tune. Discussing the repertoire took just a few minutes. It was like: 'You know that tune?' 'Let's do it.' Sam always plays attractive lines, knows the chords inside out and swings consistently." Sam Most concentrated on the flute and the alto flute -except for a short excursion on the rarely heard bass flute in 'Ghost Of A Chance'.
This CD is issued in 2012, exactly sixty years after Sam's recording debut as a flute soloist. Many years as a studio musician have kept him not only in relative obscurity, but also in good health, not having to be 'on the road' most of the year. In his 80s, Sam Most is still quietly blowing up a storm.
-Jeroen de Valk
© -Jeroen de Valk, copyright protected; all rights reserved
 
 
 

All About Jazz, June 1999

Sam Most/Herbie Mann

Herbie Mann/Sam Most Quintet

There's no use denying it, so I'll confess: I am not a big jazz flute fan. The instrument has always seemed to me to be too slight to power a rhythm section and too breathy to maintain an individual attractiveness. But Herbie Mann and Sam Most have converted me on this unlikeliest of ensembles, a double flute quintet.

The Herbie Mann-Sam Most Quintet is a 1956 album of eleven genial, high-spirited tracks featuring Mann and Most trading bright, up-tempo, virtually saxophonic flute solos. They work over an energetic backdrop provided by guitarist Joe Puma, bassist Jimmy Gannon, and drummer Lee Kleinman. Most of the tracks are brisk and cheerful, although a few tastefully spare ballads ("Love Letters") are also included.

None of the tracks is over five minutes long, and with both Mann and Most (and occasionally Puma) soloing, they sometimes seem just to get started when they're over. But that may be part of how they've both made the Transverse Thing so appealing on this disc: they never overstay their welcome in solos, and they keep a steady and sober regard for the exigencies of the light touch.

Kudos to Mann and Most, wherever they are, and to the good folks at Avenue Jazz for bringing this one back.

Track listing: Fascinating Rhythm / Why Do I Love You? / It's Only Sunshine / Love Letters / Let's Get Away From It All / Flying Home / I'll Remember April / Empathy / It Might As Well Be Spring / Just One of Those Things / Seven Comes Eleven

Personell: Herbie Mann, Sam Most, flutes; Joe Puma, guitar; Jimmy Gannon, bass; Lee Kleinman, drums.

Record Label: Avenue Records | Style: Straight-ahead/Mainstream

By ROBERT SPENCER, Published: June 1, 1999 

 

All About Jazz, June 2002

Sam Most/Joe Viola/Richard Simon

Pacific Standard Time


Sam Most & Al Viola Sparkle in This New, Live Recording!




Two vital but often overlooked virtuosi, in the relaxed atmosphere of a “lounge gig," put on a dazzling display of melodic and rhythmic brilliance in “Pacific Standard Time, the new CD from UFO-BASS records. In a program of nine standards, the pair, backed by bassist Richard Simon, deliver chorus after wonderful chorus of mature yet playful improvisations, reflecting their combined experience of over a century of sophisticated music-making. Long acknowledged as one of the pioneers of jazz flute (along with Jerome Richardson and Herbie Mann), Sam Most continues to play at a remarkably high level. His youthful energy bursts forth on the CD's brisk opening cut, “Avalon." Even after guitar & bass announce a “shout chorus," Most builds momentum into yet another go-around, without a hint of creative (or physical) exhaustion. And for Al Viola, rhythm guitarist with Frank Sinatra for parts of four decades, this evening is a showcase of his enormous talents as both accompanist and soloist. He limns and leavens Most's ideas with single-note counter-lines, and chordal punctuations emulating a horn section. His own solos are fluid, in the be-bop idiom without the cliches, often ending with a stunning chorus of chords. His peerless ballad styling makes “My Romance" one of the highlights of the entire disc. Clearly, these West Coast residents would get more attention if they lived on the “right" shore. But “Pacific Standard Time" should bring wider recognition to two masters of the art, whose musicianship sets a very high standard indeed.

“Pacific Standard Time" is the fourth commercial release on the UFO-BASS label. Visit their website: www.ufo-bass.com

L.A. JAZZ SCENE, APRIL 2010

Sam Most

Solo Flute

(Liquid Jazz)

Throughout his long career, Sam Most has made his mark as an innovative and pacesetting flutist, a fine cool-toned tenor-saxophonist and a witty scat-singer. He has appeared on a countless number of sessions since the late 1940s but "Solo Flute" is unique. How many 79-year olds would consent to record a full set (14 songs) as unaccompanied flute solos?

Sam Most just handles the music as if he were plating with a quartet. His time is perfect, he uses space expertly and, after he states his piece, he closes the song.

Whether it is "Autumn in New York," "Giant Steps," "Just Friends," "Stablemates" or one of his originals, Most is heard throughout in top form. He never seems to run out of ideas, nor are there any dull or wasted moments.

This unusual and rewarding set, which is one  of the highpoints in Sam Most's large discography, is available digitally from www.liquidjazz.com.

 

Scott Yanow

News

11/4/2016 - Added 3 new transcriptions for dowload.

12/23/2015 - Added a new transcription of Sam's solo on his original song "The Humming Blues".

12/15/2015 - There are now 11 Sam Most Solo Transcriptions to download for free.

12/15/2015 - There are new links to both the NPR and Huffington Post on-line articles on the Home Page.

12/15/2015 - Added info on Sam's final recording "New Jazz Standards" to the Home Page.

Check out Liquidjazz.com for links to and info on some of Sam's finest works

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