New Release Features Jazz Flutist Sam Most's 'Breathy, Punchy Sound' | KERA News

New Release Features Jazz Flutist Sam Most's 'Breathy, Punchy Sound'

Jul 27, 2015
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Transcript

TERRY GROSS, HOST:

This is FRESH AIR. Our jazz critic Kevin Whitehead has a review of a reissue by flute player Sam Most, who died in 2013. Kevin says Most was never very well-known, despite his influence on other jazz flute players like Rahsaan Roland Kirk.

(SOUNDBITE OF SAM MOST SONG, "WHAT IT IS")

KEVIN WHITEHEAD, BYLINE: Sam Most on his 1978 album "From The Attic Of My Mind." It's in a new batch of reissues drawn from the old Xanadu catalog. Sam Most wasn't the first jazz flute player. Cuba's Alberto Socarras soloed on some 1920s Clarence Williams dates. But Sam Most was the first flute modernist on record before colleagues like Frank Wess, James Moody or Herbie Mann who briefly co-led a band with Most. Sam Most's breathy, punchy sound pointed the way for other flutists.

(SOUNDBITE OF SAM MOST SONG, "WHAT IT IS")

WHITEHEAD: Sam Most with pianist Kenny Barron, George Mraz on bass and Walter Bolden on drums. Some of the flutist's technique was homemade. Rahsaan Roland Kirk took one idea Most had hit on and ran with it - singing through the flute as you play for extra oomph. Most's singing along was very precise. There's a documentary on him you can find online where at one point he scat sings. It sounds like his flute playing without the flute. Sam Most is well-recorded here so you can hear flute and voice separately even as you hear the blend.

(SOUNDBITE OF SAM MOST SONG, "KEEP MOVING")

WHITEHEAD: That's called "Keep Moving," which Sam Most's best tunes tend to do. He wrote everything on "From The Attic Of My Mind," three blues included. Blues was a touchstone for him throughout his career. He'd bring that feeling even to non-blues material. His solos were rich with ideas developed in short paragraphs with obscure quotations woven in. And his articulation can be a marvel. He'd make every note in a fast phrase pop out. You can hear all of that on his ballad "You Are Always The One."

(SOUNDBITE OF SAM MOST SONG, "YOU ARE ALWAYS THE ONE")

WHITEHEAD: As influential as Sam Most is, he didn't record that much, with long gaps between sympathetic record labels. The '70s Xanadu albums gave him the greatest exposure, but didn't make him a star. Later projects that never got recorded included a band he'd co-lead with his clarinetist brother Abe. Sam Most didn't get his due, but his records still make his case. He found his sound early and stuck to it.

(SOUNDBITE OF SAM MOST SONG, "YOU ARE ALWAYS THE ONE")

GROSS: Kevin Whitehead writes for Point Of Departure and is the author of "Why Jazz?" He reviewed "From The Attic Of My Mind" by Sam Most on the Xanadu label. Tomorrow on FRESH AIR, what the neuroscience of schizophrenia, autism, Alzheimer's and lesser-known disorders can tell us about the sense of self, how it's formed and how it can become distorted. We talk with science writer Anil Ananthaswamy about his new book "The Man Who Wasn't There." It includes the story of a patient who believes he's dead and another who believes his leg isn't his and he wants it amputated, so join us tomorrow. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.