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Herbie Mann Dies

Herbie Mann, the most popular jazz flutist of the 1960s, died Tuesday, July 1 in Santa Fe, N.M. Mann was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 1997 and had fought the disease since. He was 73.

Born Herbert Jay Soloman in New York in 1930, Mann began playing the clarinet at nine and later took up flute and tenor saxophone. He served in the Army for three years and was stationed in Italy, where he kept up his playing. Upon his return to the States in the early 1950s, Mann joined jazz accordianist Mat Matthews’ quartet. Mann was leading his own groups by the mid-’50s and recorded numerous albums for labels like Bethlehem, Prestige, Savoy and Verve before entering what would become a long-lasting contract with Atlantic in the ’60s.

Mann’s style was his own, a musical mishmash containing the bop he cut his teeth on in the ’50s, the Brazilian bossa sound and the mellow tone of West Coast cool. When you hear Mann play, you know who it is-and not simply because there are only a handful of jazz flutists as adept as Mann. His chops on saxophone and bass clarinet were equally refined and stylish.

In 1969 Mann began producing records for the Atlantic imprint Embryo and also became open to the sounds of rock, reggae, pop and other non-jazz genres. He experimented with these styles throughout the ’70s, sometimes to great effect. The 172 Mann album Hold On, I’m Coming remains a memorable collection of crossover jazz with guitarist Sonny Sharrock and saxophonist David “Fathead” Newman.

Mann returned to a more traditional jazz sound as time wore on. In 1996 he recorded Peace Pieces, an acclaimed straightahead LP with players like Randy Brecker, Lewis Nash and Eddie Gomez. He moved to Santa Fe from New York City in the late ’80s, but didn’t retire. He delivered his last live performance on May 3 at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival.

Mann is survived by his wife, two sons, two daughters, his mother and a sister.

Originally Published