Herbie Mann – Live at Newport (1963)

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I know there are quite a few people waiting for me to finish up the Marcos Valle series, but I’ve been rather busy lately. But a whole week without a blog post is just unconscionable, so here’s a quick one (while he’s away).

Herbie Mann still doesn’t get enough credit for his role in helping spread the seeds of musical cross-fertilization between the US and Brazil, nor for the amount of great players that passed through the ranks of his various ensembles. My explanation for this lack of respect hinges on the fact that by the late sixties Herbie would become obsessed with taking his shirt off for every photo op, bearing his hairy pectorals while blowing madly on his flute. And also committing the venial jazz sin of flirting too much with commercialism for the jazz critics, embracing soul, R&B, funk, rock, and disco at one time or another.

This is a very fine set of music from Herbie with his shirt still on, and a lineup that boasts Dave Pike, Willie Bobo and Patato Valdez. From Bennie Goodman to Luis Bonfa, there really isn’t a dull moment. And a ripping bossa-bop treatment of “Desafinado” is all on its own enough to make this record worth having. The solos from Herbie and Dave Pike are a world apart from the many sleepier, starchier American jazz appropriations of bossa nova’s own appropriations of American jazz. It’s as if the original Jobim/Mendonça song had a zipper, and Herbie Mann pulled the zipper all the way down, pushed the fabric inside out, stuffed it with a simulacrum of Dizzy Gillespie, pulled the zipper back up, and gave it to us all on Christmas day. Just like if you go far enough to the east you end up in the west eventually, bossa nova’s whitening of samba is baptized into Black American music and Latin Jazz by a Jew from Brooklyn.

Oh, and lots of folks are fond of pointing out that this live version of `Garota de Ipanema` (The Girl from Ipanema)was actually recorded before the Getz/Giblerto version had been released (although that version *had* been recorded by the time of the concert). Pretty cool, eh?

Elsewhere, Willie Bobo and Patato tear it up on the timbales and congas. Like they always do. I hope this whets your appetite for more from the family of Mann as I have quite a bit I’ve been meaning to share someday (including the oddball albums with Sonny Sharrock and Roy Ayers). This 2001 reissue on Wounded Bird has pretty decent sound too.

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