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Right Mann for the Job 

Even those not intimately familiar with jazz might be hip to flutist Herbie Mann's storied career. Commencing his musical journey back in the '50s, this Brooklyn native was one of the first artists to integrate genres such as Latin and Brazilian into the mainstream jazz vernacular. Throughout his career, Mann has been a fearless stylistic chameleon. His career spans bop and mainstream jazz, including historic stints with pianist Bill Evans, vocalist Carmen McRae and others of note. He even embarked on some disco-era excursions on his 1974 album Discotheque. "Every genre I play, I try to have that music performed naturally," says Mann in a brief break during a packed touring schedule.

In 1997, Mann was diagnosed with inoperable prostate cancer, yet his recovery is moving forward with positive results. There's no stopping his drive and commitment, evidenced by his Jazz Fest "reunion" performance with fellow jazz legends guitarist Larry Coryell, bassist Chuck Rainey and saxophonist David "Fathead" Newman. Moreover, New Orleans pianist Willie Tee and drummer Ricky Sebastian will be anchoring the rhythmic element, injecting a New Orleans groove into the band's playlist. For the record, Coryell performed and recorded with Mann on 1969's R&B-drenched Memphis Underground and 1970's Memphis Two-Step LPs. Newman's tenure with Mann began back in the '70s, extending into the '90s, and Rainey's sinewy bass lines graced Mann's 1971 LP Push Push and the soul-jazz of 1992's Deep Pocket.

That shared history promises a celebratory reunion rekindling memories of past collaborations, complemented with a continued desire to move forward. Mann, for example, is currently sequencing a recording featuring Eastern European musicians, and has upcoming dates with various Latin ensembles. His wandering musical spirit will be right at home at Jazz Fest. Says Mann, "New Orleans wanted funky music, and if that's what the crowd wants, I try to please them."

click to enlarge Flutist Herbie Mann's storied career includes forays - into Latin and Brazilian groovesm soul-jazz and - even disco.
  • Flutist Herbie Mann's storied career includes forays into Latin and Brazilian groovesm soul-jazz and even disco.
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