Though he was born Herbert Jay Solomon in Brooklyn, NY in 1930, this profound flautist was known around the world simply as Herbie Mann. Until his death in 2003, at age 73, Mann was not only the preeminent non-classical flautist, he was among the most popular and respected jazz icons of the 20th century. Mann's career transcended not only six decades, but as many musical styles.
After failing his music classes in high school, he set off to be a jazz musician in the early 1950s, focusing on Brazilian and bossa nova. In the early 1960s, while drawn to Latin-flavored jazz, he hired an unknown keyboardist named Chick Corea to be his musical director. Another band member was a future member of Weather Report: Miroslav Vitous.
By the time the '60s arrived, Mann had signed with the progressive independent label, Atlantic Records and moved into a funky, soulful style. By the time the mid-1970s, he had successfully combined popular funk-based jazz with commercial disco. He even had a disco hit in 1975 called "Hijack," which featured vocals by Cissy Houston, a former back up singer for Elvis Presley and the mother of, yes, Whitney.
In 1969, Mann was produced by Atlantic studio whiz, Tom Dowd, which resulted in the gold disc, Memphis Underground. The album, which featured the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section and guests such as guitarist Larry Coryell, yielded an instrumental hit version of Sam & Dave's "Hold On I'm Coming,"
That led to more collaborations such as 1971's "Push Push" (a reference to sex) featuring a then-unknown guitarist named Duane Allman; and 1974's "Reggae," which embraced that rhythmic form of music along with musicians such as the Rolling Stones' Mick Taylor and U.K. guitar hero, Albert Lee.
Mann, who began performing professionally at age 15 playing in house bands of Jewish resorts in the Catskills, gave his last performance on May 3, 2003 at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. He died seven weeks later at age 73, after a long battle with prostate cancer.