One of the most important flutists in jazz history passed away last month and for that I morn. Sam Most, RIP:
Sam Most, a flutist who helped bring his instrument into the modern jazz mainstream, died on June 13 in Woodland Hills, Calif. He was 82. The cause was pancreatic cancer, his twin sister, Ruth Labensky, said.
In 1952, when he recorded the flute feature “Undercurrent Blues,” Mr. Most was an accomplished jazz saxophonist and clarinetist who, like many reed and woodwind players, played flute only occasionally. Jazz flute was not much more than a novelty at the time, and it was virtually absent from recordings or performances in the modern style known as bebop. “Undercurrent Blues” displayed the instrument’s potential in a new way and, while not a big hit, caught the ear of many musicians. “When I started playing jazz on flute,” Herbie Mann, the first jazz flutist to achieve widespread popularity, once said, “there was only one record out: Sam Most’s ‘Undercurrent Blues.’ ” By the early 1960s, flutes were almost as common as saxophones in jazz ensembles.
Mr. Mann and many other jazz flutists, including Rahsaan Roland Kirk, Yusef Lateef and Hubert Laws, have acknowledged Mr. Most — and especially his unusual technique of humming into the flute while playing — as an early influence. Charles Mingus once called him “the world’s greatest jazz flutist.”
Without Sam, my personal favorite Hubert Laws may never have been given a shot to be a solo artist. Sam was truly the father of the bebop flute and it’s a shame that there isn’t that much of a catalog left to listen to.
The first time I heard him was on a track called Rio Romance, which blew me away. It was on a record that is tough to find now, called Mostly Flute After that I immediately bought Herbie Mann-Sam Most Quintet and was not disappointed. Here’s a record that appears to be available Simply Flute
Check out the this documentary if you want to know something about him and his music.
Thank you Sam for all your contributions to the history of Jazz, the real American music. You will be missed.
You can also check out his website: Sam Most: Bebop Flute.