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Reviewers: Tony Augarde [Editor], Steve Arloff, Nick Barnard, Pierre Giroux, Don Mather, Glyn Pursglove, George Stacy, Sam Webster, Jonathan Woolf

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African Suite

Fresh Sound FSR-CD 654



1. St. Thomas
2. Jungle Fantasy
3. Sorimao
4. African Suite: Bedouin Part I
5. Sudan - Part II
6. Ekunda - Part III
7. Guinean - Part IV
8. Dearly Beloved
9. You Stepped Out Of A Dream
10. I'll Remember April
11. A Ritual
12. Fife 'n Tambourine Corps
13. Autumn Leaves

Herbie Mann - Flute, bass clarinet
Johnny Rae - Vibes
Bob Corwin - Piano (tracks 1-7)
Jack Six - Bass (tracks 1-7)
Philly Joe Jones - Drums (tracks 1-3)
Carlos "Patato" Valdes, Victor Pantoja - Conga drums (tracks 1-7)
Jos‚ Mangual - Bongoes (tracks 1-7)
Nabil "Knobby" Totah - Bass (tracks 8-13)
Rudy Collins - Drums (tracks 8-13)
Ray Mantilla - Conga drums (tracks 8-13)
Ray Barretto - Bongoes (tracks 9-11, 13)
"Doc" Cheatham, Siggy Schatz, Jerome Kail, Leo Ball - Trumpets (tracks 8-13)


Herbie Mann was probably the most popular flautist in jazz from the fifties to the seventies, even though his technique was possibly not as developed as that of others like Bud Shank, Hubert Laws and Frank Wess, nor as exciting as that of Roland Kirk. In fact some of his albums are more appropriately described as "easy listening" rather than "jazz".

Happily, this CD contains some of Herbie's more invigorating work, using a variety of Latin percussionists and some other useful sidemen. Herbie actually leaves a lot of the work to his band. In Ekunda, he only plays a few notes of the melody, letting the percussionists and vibist Johnny Rae play for most of the track. When he does solo, Mann is not particularly inventive. although he occasionally injects some excitement into the proceedings by blowing his flute forcibly, making it buzz or flutter. He seems particularly animated in Jungle Fantasy, perhaps because Esy Morales' version of the tune inspired him to use the flute as a jazz instrument. His high-speed solo in I'll Remember April is also notable.

Yet most of the best playing on the CD comes from the backing musicians. Johnny Rae (not the famous tearful singer) plays some outstanding solos on the vibes. Pianist Bob Corwin is heard soloing briefly but to good effect. In Autumn Leaves, the bowed bass solo from Nabil "Knobby" Totah sounds more inspired than Mann's solo.

This CD contains two Herbie Mann albums, both recorded in 1959. African Suite was by "Herbie Mann's Afro-Jazz Sextet" (originally issued with Johnny Rae named as the leader), while Flute, Brass, Vibes and Percussion was by "The Herbie Mann Nonet". Herbie's versatility is heard in his use of the bass clarinet in Sorimao and bamboo flute in Bedouin. He appears to use the piccolo in Flute 'n Tambourine Corps.

Herbie had made some recordings with Machito's Afro-Cuban band, so he was well versed in combining jazz with Latin-American rhythms, here adding some African influences. Many tracks on this album contain long solos by conga drums and bongoes - with the addition of Philly Joe Jones's sparkling drums to add to the mix on the first three tracks. However, Philly Joe swapping fours with the conga drums on St. Thomas is messy rather than exuberant, and some of the long percussion solos outstay their welcome.

Despite its failings, this album illustrates an interesting early attempt to fuse jazz with World Music, and the four-part African Suite sounds authentic, with representations of a marimba and log drum. The whole album is certainly more inspiring than some of Herbie's other albums.

Tony Augarde

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