JazzTimes 10: Essential Jazz Flute Albums

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

9. Bobbi Humphrey: Blacks and Blues (Blue Note, 1973)

Even more than Hubert Laws, Bobbi Humphrey did for the flute what Roy Ayers did for the vibraphone. That is, she made it a vehicle for dark and dirty funk-soul jazz. Any doubter of that claim will not last beyond the halfway point of “Chicago, Damn,” the first track on 1973’s Blacks and Blues. And as was the case with Ayers, the layers of thump-bass ostinatos and soul-crooner vocals do nothing to diminish Humphrey’s chops. One high point comes during the sexy slow jam “Just a Love Child” (which, except for its ill-advised clavinet solo, could fit well in a stag film of the period): Humphrey adds a high come-hither vocal, then tops it with an irresistible and also oddly come-hither flute line. Her real soul music, though, is in her solo on the dancefloor-ready “Jasper Country Man,” a near-perfect slice of funk that could serve as a soundtrack for the entire cultural era.

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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.