Jazz Saxo-Flautists

Nathan Holaway By

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Saxophonists in jazz are about as common as guitarists in rock. Some, on the other hand, possess a very different quality. They are accomplished jazz flautists as well. Despite Will Ferrell's efforts to poke fun at jazz flautists in the movies, it really is a serious commitment by any saxophonist to handle the chops and technique of the flute along with the saxophone. For those that possess that dual ability, they certainly never get enough credit and acclaim, until now. Forget your Jethro Tull albums, and get ready for some of the great saxo-flautists in jazz.

George Adams: Life-Line (Absord)
George Adams, who generally performs with Don Pullen on piano, is one of the saxo-flautists that came from the Mingus school. Whether on the saxophone or on the flute, he can take you to the most tender note to a gut-wrenching scream that will leave your ears paralyzed. Another Mingus alumni, Dannie Richmond is on the drums, along with Cameron Brown on bass. On the tune "Seriously Speaking, there's a feeling of gritty blues and hints of rock, where "Soft Seas has a Sonny Rollins-esque calypso feel. "Protection is another blues tune, and "Newcomers offers an impressionistic feel. But, the real diamond on this album is a tune called "Nature's Children. On this tune, it starts out like a beautiful ballad, then over time it climaxes into an incredible clap of improvisational thunder, before settling back down to the wonderful ballad that it started out in. This record is rare, but worth searching for.
Jane Bunnett: Cuban Odyssey (Blue Note)
Bunnett is one of the newest faces to emerge in the last ten or so years, but what a talent she is! As the story goes, she and her husband, trumpet / flugelhorn player Larry Cramer, decided to take a vacation, and having a limited income, decided that Cuba looked good. This "vacation changed their lives forever. Since then, Bunnett has made a tremendous outpouring of Cuban jazz. On Cuban Odyssey, there is not only a fabulous CD available, but they are offering a wonderful DVD as well. Bunnett really shines, as does young Cuban pianist, David Virelles on tracks "Arrival, "Diablo (the Devil), "Nan Fonn Bwaa, and the tune written by the 18-year-old Virelles for Bunnett "Pensando en Jane (Thinking of Jane). I've heard more than one person compare Bunnett to Kenny G, and they are insane and NEED to be committed. Just because she plays soprano sax and flute, is no reason for comparison. Listen to this woman. If there is anyone Bunnett should be compared to, it's Dizzy Gillespie in that she is bringing a renewed respect of Cuban music in with jazz.
Eric Dolphy: Out to Lunch (Blue Note)
Dolphy is a supreme multi-instrumentalist. His tone and his awkward, angular delivery are instantly identifiable, whether it be on alto saxophone, flute, or the bass clarinet. His classic Blue Note session is presented here in Out to Lunch. Besides the memorable tracks like "Out to Lunch, "Straight Up and Down, "Something Sweet, Something Tender, and "Gazzelloni, there is also a band full of all-stars. In the trumpet chair is a young Freddie Hubbard, and on the vibes you'll find Bobby Hutcherson, along with Tony Williams on drums, and Richard Davis on bass. Dolphy is quantum. He has played with everyone from Mingus to Oliver Nelson, Herbie Hancock to John Coltrane. If you have been waiting to check out Eric Dolphy, there isn't any better place to start than Out to Lunch.
Joe Farrell: Moon Germs (CTI/Sony)
Most cats won't know the name Joe Farrell. On the other hand, if you were to talk about the Chick Corea song "Spain, a lot more would be in on the conversation. They are one and the same. Farrell was the flautist and saxophonist with Return to Forever. The same group that included Stanley Clarke on bass, Airto Moreira on drums and percussion, and occaisionally Flora Purim on vocals led by keyboardist extraordinaire Chick Corea. That is who Joe Farrell is. So, if you want to check out some great fusion by this great saxo-flautist, I would recommend Moon Germs. It features Ron Carter on bass, Hubert Laws on flute as well, Bob James on keyboards, Airto Moreira on percussion and drums, the ever-lyrical Gene Bertoncini on guitar, and it doesn't hurt that Rudy Van Gelder recorded and remastered this session. If you dig 70s fusion, and the Creed Taylor International label, this is for you. Tracks are: "Moon Germs, "Great Gorge, "Bass Folk Song, and "Time's Lie.
Rahsaan Roland Kirk: I Talk with the Spirits (Polygram)
When the term "multi-instrumentalist gets thrown around, a couple of names automatically pop into your head, and Rahsaan Roland Kirk is one of them. He not only plays multiple instruments, but he plays them all at the same time! He plays the tenor saxophone, the manzello, the saxello, the nose flute, among many other different instruments. But, besides all of those, he's quite an accomplished jazz flautist. I Talk with the Spirits showcases that specific side of Kirk. On this album, you can find Kirk playing standards such as "Django, "My Ship, and "We'll Be Together Again. Plus, you will also thoroughly enjoy his compositions like "Serenade to a Cuckoo, and the Asian-influenced "I Talk with the Spirits. Horace Parlan joins Kirk on the piano, and it is a humorous, deep, bluesy, and swingin' session. One of Kirk's absolute best!

Yusef Lateef: Eastern Sounds (Fantasy/OJC)
Yusef Lateef is in a category all by himself. He is constantly experimenting and bringing in a new respect of different styles into the art of jazz improvisation. For those slightly unfamiliar with Lateef, you can find Lateef playing on many sides with Cannonball Adderley and Nat Adderley. He played tenor saxophone and flute in that sextet. But here, on Eastern Sounds you can find him playing tenor saxophone, flute, and oboe. On the opening track, "The Plum Blossom, he plays the tune and his solo on a 12-hundred-year-old Chinese globular flute (only with a 5 note range) and the bassist on this tune as well as on "The Three Faces of Balal sets his bass down in exchange for the Indian rabat instrument. On "Blues For the Orient, he plays a very successful blues on the oboe. "Snafu is a hard driving bop piece that is definitely reminiscent of Coltrane and Rollins. Lateef also takes poignant, beautiful approaches to two love themes, "Love Theme from 'The Robe', and "Love Theme from 'Spartacus'. In a sense, Lateef was bringing elements of World Music into jazz before that was the popular thing to do, as this record was made in 1961. This is a great introduction to one of jazz music's living legends, Yusef Lateef.
Charles Lloyd: Forrest Flower (Atlantic/Rhino)
Charles Lloyd has been compared to Coltrane in terms of his tone on the tenor saxophone, but the truth is that Lloyd has his own personal approach, and personal sound. If you listen closer, you can hear the differences. But here, on Forrest Flower, you get the maiden voyage of Lloyd's biggest and most popular composition, "Forrest Flower. It used to be known in the late 1960's as the "love theme for beatniks, but it is so much more than that. It is a deep, personal cry from Lloyd's imagination and his sax that will absolutely make you shudder. Another hidden gem in this record is Lloyd's beautiful flute stylings on the tune "Sorcery and his ferocious bop attacks on "East of the Sun. The backing band isn't to shabby either. The rhythm section includes Jack DeJohnette on drums and Keith Jarrett on piano. This is definitely one to check out, then I would suggest checking out Lloyd's ECM catalogue. Fantastic stuff!
James Moody: At the Jazz Workshop (GRP)
Moody is simply one of the greats. He is also another living legend. This man is so full of life, love, music, and humor, it's hard not to love James Moody. He once said something to the effect that he "wasn't a flautist, but more of a 'flute holder'. Many would disagree quickly, especially if they have heard his flute stylings on albums like Moody's Mood for Love which is predominantly flute-based. But, here on At the Jazz Workshop Moody is in prime form and joining him is the father of vocalese Eddie Jefferson. You can find Moody playing on many great standards such as "Round Midnight, "Stablemates, "Sister Sadie, and "It Might as Well Be Spring. This is classic Moody playing at his best. If your ears haven't been touched by Moody's magic, then this is a must have!

Sam Rivers: Contours (Blue Note)
Sam Rivers continues to explore and amaze audiences to this very day with his musical expressions, and vast emotional output. With the album Contours, the only way many have been able to enjoy this album was through the Sam Rivers Mosaic set. Finally, Blue Note has reissued this Rivers classic that includes Ron Carter on bass, Joe Chambers on drums, Freddie Hubbard on trumpet, and the quantum Herbie Hancock on piano. This record was made in 1965 at the height of Carter and Hancock's association with Miles Davis' second great quintet. Although this album only provides four tracks, there is plenty of music to go around. The first track "Point of Many Returns features Hubbard swingin' hard and on the third track, "Euterpe you can find Rivers' beautiful flute sound paired with Hubbard. On "Dance of the Tripedal you can experience being taken to a new place through Hancock's chordal landscape that he paints with the piano. The last track, "Mellifluous Cacophony is extremely reminiscent of Dolphy, Coleman, and other Blue Note projects at the time. If you don't have any Sam Rivers in your collection, this would be an ideal starting place.
Frank Wess: Long Road (Prestige)
If you have heard the Count Basie album April in Paris, then you've already heard the great saxo-flautist Frank Wess. Wess too, is among the wonderful living legends in this article. On this early 1960s album (originally issued as Southern Comfort) we find Wess in the company of such stars as Oliver Nelson, Thad Jones, Roy Haynes, Tommy Flanagan, and Ray Baretto. Wess delivers sultry and hard driving sax and beautiful, tasteful flute on the entire album. Outstanding tracks include "Southern Comfort, "Long Road, "Lizard, "Blues for Butterball, and "Poor You, among the standards "Dancing in the Dark, and "Blue Skies. Frank Wess has continued to be a tasteful soloist, and has also continued to be true to the music for decades. You're missing out if you don't have Frank Wess in your collection.

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