An Interview with Herbie Mann
June 28, 2021 (No Comments) by Ganved14

Interview with Herbie Mann by Peter Westbrook

Around 2003/2004, while writing The Flute in Jazz: Window on World Music, I interviewed many of the most prominent jazz flutists. As part of this effort, in March, 2003 I spoke with Herbie Mann. It turned out to be his last interview. Four other artists have sadly passed away since our interview: Bud Shank, David Newman, Buddy Collette and James Moody. (Others, notably Sam Most and Frank Wess, have passed away since the book was published.) As I wrote at the time:

“These were all distinct originals both as people and as artists, but what they shared in common was that they were all warm, gracious individuals who gave unsparingly of their time. This is not to say that others did not; I have been deeply touched and impressed by the generosity of all the musicians I spoke to in the course of preparing this book. But the extent to which these three artists shared their thoughts and feelings with me–and their opinions; these were not shy people!–has made their passing all the more personal for me. 

“In the case of Herbie, I believe mine was the last interview he gave. He knew that he did not have much time and, as a result, during the several conversations I had with him, he was totally honest in assessing the pros and cons of his career. I deeply appreciated his openness and have reproduced his comments in their entirety. Herbie did not enjoy much support from critics, his name is not found prominently in histories of jazz, and he was well aware of his own limitations. However, from the comments of his fellow musicians it is clear that his contribution to the music was significant, especially in opening jazz to the influence of other world music traditions. I am happy that a study of the flute in jazz can help put Herbie Mann’s life and music into a better perspective.”

Rather than the chapter in its final form, what is reproduced below is the original interview in its raw form. Herbie’s views remain as interesting today as they were in 2003:

Peter Westbrook: It has been interesting talking to jazz flutists. They tend to look beyond the boundaries of what most people call jazz

Herbie Mann

Herbie Mann: Yes, well my feeling really is that flute players’ jazz is different than other instrumentalists’ because there was no tradition of jazz history on the flute, you know, where all the other instruments were classical instruments that were adapted to New Orleans and jazz music. I think that flute players . . . I know with me, I realized when I started improvising, it was such a novelty that people could not comprehend [it.] And it didn’t really feel right for me just playing bebop.

PW: Playing straight ahead in 4/4 with a regular rhythm section?

HM: Right, but the minute I listened to . . . I realized that if you think jazz means improvising on a melodic and rhythmic concept, and don’t think that it only means 4/4, there are many examples of flute improvising in other traditions. Rather than being a novelty it was an accepted part of the music.

PW: One of the most ubiquitous instruments there is, apart from percussion, maybe.

HM: Yeah, well if you go back in history, obviously just banging on something and getting a sound is probably the simplest. But getting a hollow tube of some kind of wood or stone or something also is simplistic, and I have flutes from Russia that have the same four notes as flutes from South America.

PW: You have a collection of flutes?

HM: Yeah.

PW: I’d sure like to see that.

Herbie Mann

HM: A lot of them are manufactured but I have a Mayan or Inca flute from 16BC, and it’s the same scale. Maybe they just got on the InterNet and said well here are the flutes and the spaces are this kind of way! Or I am sure that people traveling over continents took their instruments with them. But it’s pretty bizarre.

PW: Indeed, there are ancient bone flutes from China and some that were dug up at Mohenjo-daro the ancient Indian city, that’s now in Pakistan. One of my teachers in Calcutta, Debu Banarjee, was petitioning the government to allow us to go and examine them, to see if that had the same scale. Because these are possibly some of the oldest flutes anywhere. He never overcame the bureaucracy, but I understand your point very well. But you didn’t start as flute player?

HM: No, I started out as a clarinet player. I wanted to be a drummer but my cousin convinced my mother that the neighbors wouldn’t really appreciate a beginner drummer! So my mother took me to see Benny Goodman at the Paramount Theater in New York in 1939, and the electricity in the theater was so dramatic that I was completely blown away. Two weeks later I was home with a cold and she bought me a $45 metal clarinet, and before I had any lessons I started playing myself and seeing how to play it.

PW: When you went to see Benny Goodman, was it the full orchestra?

HM: Oh yes

PW: And did he do something in between with the quartet or the sextet?

Benny Goodman Orchestra

HM: I don’t remember exactly, but I know the band came up from the pit playing Let’s Dance and it was  like the Beatles, it really was that way. So I wanted to be a clarinet player. But then my music teacher said if I was going to be a successful studio musician I had to play the saxophone. So I picked the tenor sax– I went from wanting to be Benny Goodman to wanting to be Coleman Hawkins, to Illinois Jacquet, to finally wanting to be Lester Young.

PW: Did you hear Lester play live?

HM: Oh many many times. The first time was at the Jazz At The Philharmonic at Carnegie Hall but I wasn’t really impressed.

PW: It wasn’t the best setting!

Lester Young

HM: Well I was more impressed by Illinois Jacquet and Flip Phillips, more by squeaking and honking, you know, it was that kind of energy. Of course, once I converted into a Youngite then that was it. I went into army, the army band in New York. Then we went to Trieste, Italy for three years and at that point I just wanted to be a jazz tenor player. But when I got back out of the army I found that there were a lot of great Youngites out there, you know, Stan Getz, Al Cohn,  Zoot Sims. So I might have been a second level, talented, Lester Young disciple. But then a friend of mine was trying to get me work, he was a drummer. He was playing at a club in Brooklyn and right next door there was a Dutch accordionist named Mat Mathews. And my friend said to me that this man was looking to hire Sam Most for his band. Sam Most was established at that time, he was the only man I was aware of who improvised on the flute. But my friend told Mat Matthews, that Sam was out of town. He lied to him. And he told me the whole story, that Matt was looking for a jazz flute player. He said “Do you play jazz on flute?” I said “I do now!” 

PW: What was Matthews motivation? He was looking for something that didn’t exist? Or had he heard Sam Most?

HM: No. He wanted to emulate George Shearing’s sound, with tight chords. But instead of using vibes and piano, he wanted to use accordion and flute.

PW: How did that work?

HM: Oh the sound was beautiful. But to get the gig I lied, I told him I could play flute. Now Sam Most had one song that he had made where he played flute and I listened to it as much as I could to see what it could do for me.

PW: You mean one recording?

HM: Yes, Bennie Goodman’s Undercurrent Blues. I wanted to see if it could give me any more insight about what I could do with the instrument. Then I thought I should listen to trumpet players. So Miles, and Clifford Brown and Art Farmer were my main flute influences. 

PW: It’s a cleaner sound, isn’t it, the flute. It doesn’t have those, what,  noise elements that you have with the saxophone. So trumpet players might be a better model.

HM: Yes, and of course, with the saxophone you’ve got the reed, but with flute the flute or the trumpet, or the trombone, you just have the open hole to blow into, or across. But I think you will find that my sound was always more percussive, because I didn’t say I am going to play flute jazz, based on the limitations of the flute. I thought I had a great opportunity because at the time you didn’t have many people playing jazz on the instrument.

PW: What year are we talking about?

HW: 1952.

PW: So there were some players coming along then, or a little later . . .

HM: Right. I think Bud Shank had started playing flute with the Stan Kenton band. And I think both Jerome Richardson and Frank Wess had started, on the West coast.

PW: There is this statement by Jerome Richardson, talking to Leonard Feather on the liner notes of one of his albums. He sais that, in his opinion, no-one had quite solved the problem of how to play jazz on the flute, particularly with articulation, making the instrument swing, and that he was trying to find a solution to that. He wasn’t looking to create a new genre. He was just seeking to be a good straight ahead jazz player. But I know what he was getting at. You can hear this in a lot of early jazz flute, a bit too percussive– too staccato to the point of being jerky. 

HM: Yes. But remember– all these guys were doublers. They were applying what they knew from their other instruments

PW: Well that doesn’t always work. I remember when I first played flute–trying to play it like a saxophone.

HM: Right. (Hums): dum de dum de dum. But when I found this ethnic opening it made it much easier.

PW: Yes. But now tell me how this happened, when you started to get into other genres, apart from straight ahead jazz playing. Were you looking for something different or did you just come across it?

HM: Well, growing up in New York I heard a lot of Latin bands. And there was a DJ in New York whose name was Symphony Sid. He was a big Latin fan. I had played once at Birdland with a  straight ahead band, but he suggested to my manager Monty Kay that if I added some Latin percussion it would work better. So I did and it did.

PW: It does feel very natural for flute. I have found that myself. You are drawn towards Bossa Novas and other kinds of rhythm.

HM: Yes, but what I learned–with other instruments you can dictate the rhythmic energy but with flute you can float on top of the waves rather than row the boat. And so Latin, Brazilian, Jamaican, that has been my approach all along.

PW: So it’s not an over simplification to say that over the years you went looking for different contexts, one after another?

HM: Oh yes. Totally. Totally, because  each door that I went through there was another door. And also, at the same time,  I really didn’t think I wanted to be a straight ahead player. So when I added these other genres I attracted audiences that weren’t just straight ahead fans . You know I got fringe Latin, Brazilian, Reggae, pop fans who wanted to hear more than the melody of the music they liked.

PW: And at what point did you loose touch with the jazz critics?

HM: Almost immediately.

PW: Really? Did you care?

HM: No. I did not think that somebody who did not understand where I was coming from should dictate, based on their taste, how I should play.

PW: Well, I have never been much for putting down other people’s music. That’s why I am no jazz critic. I know what I like. What I don’t like I just keep quiet about.

Herbie Mann

HM: I totally agree with you. But you know, Ira Gitler, who was a friend of mine, early on, once I started playing Latin music, he said “Well I thought you wanted to be the Charlie Parker of the flute.” I said “Ira–I want to be the Herbie Mann of the flute!”

PW: Do you think anyone has been the Charlie Parker of the flute?

HM: How can you be? Charlie Parker was a special individual with a unique way of playing his instrument. For a reviewer to always compare, or to have a particular hook to explain his taste, misses the entire point. That for every player and every listener their criteria is only their own taste. Everyone is an individual and to compare them, like saying someone is the Charlie Parker of the flute, is like saying Pavarotti is the Sinatra of opera. For want of a better word it’s silly.

PW: Tell me about other flute players though. Hubert Laws started winning the polls on flute after you had been doing so for what, twenty years?

HM: Yes. Hubert is the most well-rounded flutist there is. For me. He organizes incredible melodies. I’m funkier than he is but his sound is better. Another one that plays like Hubert is Toshiko’s husband.

Lew Tabackin

PW: Lew Tabackin.

HM: He’s an excellent player.

PW: When was the last time you played anything other than flute. 

HM: I did an album with Jay McShann–with him, Doc Cheatham, and Gus Johnson. That was probably, fifteen years ago.

PW: And you played some tenor on that?

HM: I only played tenor. We did things like Lester Leaps In. I had my dream of being Lester Young!

PW: But now you are just a pure flute player.

Frank Wess

HM: Yes. You can tell the doublers. There are very few doublers who have as good a flute sound as Frank Wess. David Newman, James Moody–you can tell that they are doublers.

PW: Chris Vadala, at the University of Maryland, has published has a book for doublers, with exercises to help the embouchure. It’s a matter of degree. The British player Harold McNair.told me once that the reason he switched from alto to tenor was to help his flute chops. But then Jane Bunnett doubles on soprano and flute, and you did the same once, with clarinet and flute.

Romeo Penque

HM: You know, there was a studio woodwind player in New York named Romeo Penque. And what he used to do was to carry around a tuba mouthpiece. And in between switches he would just take it blow through it like . . .  (makes raspberry sound.) 

PW: To sort of free up the embouchure.

HM: Right. Guys like Romeo Penque would switch from oboe to baritone to piccolo to bass flute to bass clarinet. . . 

PW: Paul Horn used to do that kind of work.

HM: You know Paul got his job with Chico Hamilton because I didn’t want it.

PW: Really. That’s a whole other thing. Chico approached you about that?

HM: Chico approached me to replace Buddy Collette. But listening to the music for a couple of days I decided that I really didn’t want to play it. So I was in the union hall in New York, and Paul came in. I had  met him a couple of years before when he was still in the army. I suggested that he go and see Chico. He did and he got the job.

PW: Can I ask you about Eric Dolphy? Did you like his work?

HM: Not particularly. Or Rahsaan Roland Kirk. There was, for me, too much energy in their playing. 

PW: Too much energy? You mean not enough control?

HM: They probably had enough control for what they wanted to do but it was a little bit more than I wanted to hear from the instrument. I like the sound of the instrument enough that I don’t want to change it.

PW: Ah, well I can see why you like Hubert and Lew Tabackin!  And there are others now with that kind of sound, like Ali Ryerson. She also plays a lot of alto flute. But you play alto a good deal too don’t you?

HM: It truly is my main personality, the alto flute.

PW: It’s not on the majority of your tracks.

HM: Well, ultimately I am not too comfortable playing rhythmic tunes on it.

PW: And do you play bass flute at all?

HM: On the Peace Pieces album I play bass flute on the two flute choir tracks. But again, that’s pretty cumbersome. 

PW: And you have made some two flute recordings. One with Sam Most . . .

Buddy Collette

HM: And one with Buddy Collette. Actually, we were going to do a tour with Jimmy Galway and Ian Anderson. Jimmy always used to come by the Blue Note, and called me all the time. But the road block was with Anderson; he makes too much money.

PW: There have been some good players now, recently, who really have developed classic bebop on the flute. At the same time, there have been others who have gone even further into non-Western genres; the flute leads you there. 

HM: Then there are guys like James Newton.

PW: That’s right, he has developed techniques from other genres. But then you finish up with all the problems of categorization. Which bin do you put the record in? It’s the same with books. My last book was on Pythagoras. We marked it metaphysics but the bookstores put it in mathematics, or classics. But, anyway, did the critics ever jump back onto your band wagon?

HM: What I think happens is when you’re growing up and all your friends are listening to the Rolling Stones and you are championing what you love, you develop defenses about what you’re going to accept and what you’re not, and you put up all these walls. You know, fans who become reviewers. And you go out of your way to say, truthfully, if it sells too many records that shows that the music can’t be good because there are not many people out there who really know what good jazz is. So if somebody sells half a million copies they must be bad. So what I think happened is that I became the Kenny G of the sixties.

Kenny G

PW: Well, that works both ways. I’m no fan of  Kenny G. I’ve nothing against him but I just hate to see people think that’s jazz.

HM: Well the stores should not put him in jazz. 

PW: He could be in R & B.

HM: Or in pop instrumental.

PW: Yeah, then there would be different criteria.

HM: Same with David Sanborn.

PW: Although he’s an excellent player.

David Sanborn

HM: So is Kenny. He’s just found his genre. One thing you have to say about Kenny–the  first note you hear, you know it’s him. Which you can’t really say about the sound-alikes.

PW: Which is not a small thing. I can remember when I was an undergraduate, I could tell every musician on the old Blue Note recordings, down to the bass player and the drummer.

HM: Oh sure, sure.

PW: People used to bring records to my house just to try and stump me. Then I was away from jazz for some years, and when I got back into it, two things hit me immediately. Wow! These players are a lot better schooled than they used to be. And number two–they all sounded the same!

HM: Oh yes.

PW: It’s the result of schooling I suppose. There was only one Thelonius Monk but now there are a hundred Bill Evans out there!

HM: I think you’re right. But you know, you start with who your favorite is and you listen to their hooks. There’s a pop record out that they’ve used on a car commercial where there’s a loop that sounds like Charlie Parker. (Sings bebop-like phrase) Da da da da da da da da dada. And they just do it over and over again. But you’ve got to remember too that the market has become better defined as far as making money, so everybody wants to have a SpyroGyra sound, every record label wants to have a squeeze alto player, not a tenor player, you know what I mean, a squeeze alto player. And they all sound alike. I mean, my wife and I, we lived in Brewster New York, and we used to drive into the city. And we used to listen to CD 101. We would always try and guess who the players were–and you couldn’t tell. But you know, you , that is what this time is–everything is generic. And the buyers of the music, the people who are buying CD 101, don’t seem to care. There is no time, or room for individuality.

PW: Yes, I agree with that. But now, going back to the different stages you went through, is there any one genre that you explored as you went along that you found more satisfying than the others? Any that you think resulted in more satisfying music?

HM: Well I would say, if I had to choose one it would be Brazil.

PW: Bossa Nova?

HM: Well Bossa Nova is only of the genres of Brazil. But I went to Brazil because I was bored to death of playing two chord tunes, like Latin music . . . 

PW: The Afro-Cuban things? 

HM: Sure, but then going to Brazil . . . being a romantic and being able to play basically Ravel with a Samba beat took care of all my needs. Because here were these gorgeous melodies where with Latin music, the harmonies were rhythmic, and with African music the harmonies were rhythmic. But with Brazil, it was equal between this sensual pulsating rhythm and these melodies that would knock you over. That combination I would say, really turned me on. 

PW: I have read that after you discovered Brazilian music you had a parting of the  ways with Atlantic. What was the reason for that?

HM: Well they wanted me to move on and do other things.

PW: And you wanted to explore the Brazilian groove some more.

HM: Right. But then I made some disco records.

PW: Did you like those?

HM: No.

PW: There was some pressure from Atlantic to do those recordings?

HM: Well . . . 

PW: I’m glad to hear you say that because I didn’t like those records very much.

HM: No, no, I didn’t like them.

PW: With that kind of music . . .there’s nothing feeding anything into you . . . no stimulation or inspiration. Do you know what I’m talking about?

HM: Oh not at all . . . it’s like . . . overdubbing.

PW: Well one of the defining elements of jazz, it seems to me, is that it is performed in real time, so that the musicians are playing off of each other. I’ve done a good deal of that kind of studio work and it’s hard to be inventive when you’re playing that way.

HM: Yeah, well it’s like playing in a morgue. You know, I made a couple of Reggae records. One I did live in London with the Jimmy Cliff band and the next one I did in Jamaica. We went into the studio–it was the studio where they did Who Shot the Sheriff? You know, Eric Clapton. And everyone came in by themselves. And I said “what is this?” We couldn’t record live, we had to have the separation. Of course it depends on the genre. If it’s layered we’re talking more pop. Mostly it’s uninteresting. Although lately I have done some Brazilian records where the band already had the tracks down. That’s easy.

PW: At least you’re hearing something with some ideas in it. But Disco must be so hard – so square, thud, thud, thud . . .

HM: Oh yes.

PW: You can’t play anything subtle.

HM: No, no. But finally they [Atlantic] wanted to restructure my contract. Truthfully, I should have left them five years before. Because by the time I finished I had been with them twenty years. And it does get old.

PW: What would be a short list of your recordings you would like people to hear. I know you have made many.

HM: Over a hundred.

PW: But if you had to choose five or six.

Bill Evans

HM: I would probably say Live at the Village Gate, Memphis Underground, Push Push and the album I did of Bill Evans music, Peace Pieces.

PW: There was also the album Nirvana, that you made with Bill Evans. Did you like that?

HM: No I didn’t. I didn’t like my playing on that. At all!

PW: Was there not a meeting of minds on that session?

HM: I was so totally intimidated. 

PW: Oh yeah?

HM: It was like playing a basketball game with Michael Jordan. I worshiped his playing and I felt so insecure. It took me years to realize that I just couldn’t do it by ear alone.  I really had to study the harmonies. Basically, your ear only takes you as far as the roots. So what I do now, whenever I play anything, I have the pianist, or the guitarist, write out the hot notes, the notes you can’t just automatically hear. This gives me some cues, something to grab onto. That’s why with the Peace Pieces album–I spent a lot of time on that record.

PW: You’re referring to the higher parts of the chord, beyond the triad.

HM: Yes, the easiest is always the root. That you always hear. But the sevenths, the extensions, like the ninths, these are not so obvious. So these are the ones I have written out. Then what happens is, if you have those notes in your arsenal it opens up the rest of the chord, then you hear other things. You know, I was never a guy who could look at a chord symbol and automatically know everything that it meant. But it’s never too late to learn. It frees you up. 

PW: So it’s useful to go through a chart, and arpeggiate the chords?

HM: Oh totally, totally. Look–the ear is king. But if you combine the two ways of playing together it makes it easier. But, you know, I marvel at . . . when I listen to Herbie Hancock. . . God how do they find those notes? 

PW: The voicings?

HM: Yes, it’s just like learning how to walk. Or . . . the more you learn the more creative you can be.

PW: So, I’m sorry–I interrupted you. You were giving me a list of albums . . . 

HM: Yes, so, Live a the Village Gate, Memphis Underground, Push Push, Peace Pieces, and the last one I did, Solatera

PW: Yes I have that. I like that record.

HM: Thank you. And there’s a company called Collections Inc. They have put out every record I made for Atlantic. I made 52 records.

PW: And there is a web site also, where people can buy your more recent stuff.

HM: Yes, Also, there is an album that Frank Wess, Jerome Richardson and myself did with Billy Taylor.

PW: Boy I would like to hear that! Have you seen the record called Heavy Flute? There are several players on there, a couple tracks of yours, Fathead Newman, Jusef Lateef, Charles Lloyd, etc. But it could almost be a  Herbie Mann album. The genre is basically, almost, one you created.

HM: Well it’s funky flute. It’s Joel Dorn’s favorite genre, soul. That’s what he looks for.

PW: So, you seem to be always interested in hearing new things!

HM: Oh always. The only thing I don’t buy is jazz. I am always interested in what Herbie Hancock is doing but I’m not really interested in Wayne Shorter for instance. For me it doesn’t do anything. I’d rather wait for an Ivan Lins record. I buy every one of his records because of the songs he writes.

PW: And now you are interested in Hungarian music. Tell me a little bit about this recording. These Eastern European genres are very rich. Actually, once in a bit of a flippant mood, I suggested to my doctoral committee that I should do a dissertation on great yiddish jazz musicians. But it’s not far from the truth. There have been some great ones. Especially woodwind players. Artie Shaw, Paul Desmond, Stan Getz. And yourself, of course. Is your family Hungarian?

Herbie Mann

HM: No, they were Romanian and Russian. But the whole catalyst for the music was when I was diagnosed with prostate cancer. All of a sudden time your time is limited. And was I happy with what music I had played? And what would be my legacy? And I realized that I’m not Brazilian, I’m not black, I’m not Jamaican. I’m a second generation, East European Jew. So let me look into this music. I started writing the music and it came so easily, it just flowed out. Some of it I had but I had put it away, thinking it couldn’t really make it, even to my fans, who are very broad. But I started looking into the music again, and writing the music and I was ready to record. And my wife said, “I don’t think you’re ready to record. You have to get into the crease itself.” So we went to Hungary, met a lot of musicians and actually recorded one or two Hungarian bands.

PW: Was it your original intention to use Hungarian musicians?

HM: No.

PW: Just to create the charts and use . . . 

HM: Jewish musicians. But it was a good thing we went because it changed my concept. First of all, to hear these guys, they reminded me of the bebop musicians of the 40s and 50s because all they wanted to do was play their music. They didn’t even think about the market place. And even under communism they were listening to Coltrane, and Charlie Parker, and Miles and Dizzy. So now they’re comfortable enough playing that way. To make a living they have to play many different styles. They even developed a unique brand of jazz. In fact, I just finished a whole album just with the Hungarian musicians.

PW: Great! And that will come out on you own label?

HM: I’m not quite sure. I’m speaking to two different people to see if they are interested in putting the record out.

PW: But it will be issued, one way or the other?

HM: Oh, definitely. And I came up with a funny title for the band. I call it the Carpathian Basin Street Band.


HM: Because Hungary is like the New Orleans of Eastern Europe–because of the geography; everybody from Bulgaria, Croatia, Transylvania came through Hungary. And it already had a built-in art area there due to the Austrian-Hungarian Empire. It was fertile. And so these musicians would get together, and meet together, and play all these styles together.

PW: Were there many flute players in these ensembles?

Mihaly Borbély

HM: I haven’t seen any!  There may be some vertical flute players. Saxophonist Mihaly Borbély  co-produced and organized the music, and plays all these instruments. But you know they have to. The play traditional dance music, they play jazz, they play pop. They do recordings. They have been influenced by gypsies, gypsies are influenced by them. But it is really–the genre is the most interesting music I’ve heard since I went to Brazil.

PW: So there is a synthesis going on there from all these streams of influences flowing in, just as in New Orleans in the early days of jazz.

HM: That’s right.

PW: And there is an East meets West aspect there also?

HM: The West part is basically in the foundation to their jazz approach, but what they do with the spirit of jazz is completely original because they are basing their playing on their music, on their folk music, on their harmonies.

PW: Which are?

HM: A different scale and a different harmonic structure.

PW: Was it a lot of work to assimilate that?

HM: No, not for me because they are all great players. This Borbély, he’s the musicologist, so he knows all the genres. He wrote a piece called Balkan Caravan that’s like a journey through the whole area. And I’ve got a cymbalum player, a gypsy percussionist, two different guitarists, a saxophone player from Transylvania, trumpet, accordion, me, my son playing drums. . . it was quite a production. 

PW: And are there soloists? Apart from yourself?

HM: Oh yes, all of them.

PW: Is soloing something that you imposed on top of that or was it a part of the structure?

HM: Oh it’s all part of the structure.

PW: And odd time signatures?

HM: No.

PW: That’s more of a Bulgarian thing?

HM: Well it’s funny, they came up with the idea of doing some things in seven but it didn’t work. So it seems that if you are just imposing that from outside . . . if you can’t find the downbeat, which can be tough in seven, then don’t do it.

PW: In India they do dome things in seven and a half.

HM: But to a Western ear it’s uncomfortable.

PW: But the majority of what they do is still in a sixteen beat cycle, like four measures of four, so they prefer that feel also.

HW: Now my son also write a piece for the hurdy-gurdy. And so we have two different singers one from [?] one from Budapest. Sonatera is a free Carpathian introduction. It takes you to a totally different place.

PW: And this will be out later this year?

HM: Maybe in September

Herbie Mann


PW: So your thinking is always on the future?

HM: Oh yes. People always say to me “which is your favorite record?” I always say “the next one!”

PW: Well that’s wonderful.



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Herbie Mann on alto flute with Trio Da Paz — 1989

Herbie Mann & The Family of Mann – Memphis Underground. Deutsches Jazz Festival, 2. Oktober 1982 

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