JazzTimes 10: Essential Jazz Flute Albums

So you say the flute isn't a key jazz instrument? It can still blow your mind.

7. Quincy Jones: Big Band Bossa Nova (Mercury, 1962)

The bossa nova craze of the early 1960s gave new life to the flute as a jazz voice. So did Quincy Jones, one of the most visionary of arrangers for jazz flute. It’s most obvious in “Soul Bossa Nova” (the theme from the Austin Powers film series that put the “swing” into Swinging London), but flutes are no less key to Jones’ chart for “Manha de Carnaval,” and perhaps even more so to “Se e Tarde Me Perdoa” and “Chega de Saudade,” both of which actually feature two-way flute battles. The battlers in question are the aforementioned Rahsaan Roland Kirk and West Coast fixture Jerome Richardson, one of the most prolific and in-demand flutists of the ’60s. Even where they don’t have solo features, however, the flutes are essential members of the ensemble, their breathy tones resting at the top of Jones’ brilliantly dense chord structures. It’s all enough to ensure Big Band Bossa Nova’s canonical status for flute lovers.

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Michael J. West

Michael J. West is a jazz journalist in Washington, D.C. In addition to his work on the national and international jazz scenes, he has been covering D.C.’s local jazz community since 2009. He is also a freelance writer, editor, and proofreader, and as such spends most days either hunkered down at a screen or inside his very big headphones. He lives in Washington with his wife and two children.