28
Apr
08

Herbie Mann – At The Village Gate

Most of my friends are very aware of my obsession with digging up samples, so when Summer told me that her dad had one for me I wasn’t surprised.  What did surprise me was that it was a sample from a Sublime song, and that the source album was as awesome as it was.  That album was Herbie Mann’s 1961 live album, “At the Village Gate.”

You like jazz flute?  I mean this in a completely non-Ron Burgandy kind of way because aside from the crap you hear on any of the smooth jazz stations, most aren’t aware of what a singularly amazing instrument the flute can be in the hands of artists like Jermey Steig, or Herbie Mann.  At least the Herbie Mann of 1961, since current releases by the man are just way too…what’s the word?

Safe.

Yeah…too safe.  And if you want the real jazz, safe is as far as you can get from where you want to be.  Just coming off a South American tour at the time, Mann was already experimenting with sounds from the Caribbean and Africa when he began to incorporate the bossa nova and latin influences into his work.  And they mix so well, especially with the reverberations of the cool jazz that Miles had laid the foundations for in the previous decade.

And here, at the Villlage Gate on Bleeker Street was where it all came together.  The recording take you back to that single point in time, when it was really going down.

The live audience adds to the mood as well, shouting out out enthusiastic (alcohol induced) encouragement in the rare silences that punctuate this recording.  With a startlingly cool rendition of ‘Coming Home Baby’ that jams hard with the help of Hagood Hardy’s amazing vibe work interweaving with Mann’s flute, the album kicks off with a subtle bang. Mann follows next with a rendition of  Gershwin’s ‘Summertime,’ a tune that has been played out in numerous other recordings, but here finds a new and far funkier life than it ever had…before or since.  Younger listeners will recognize it as the haunting sample behind Sublime’s hit  ‘Doin Time.”

The second half of the CD (other side of the record for the older crowd) is an awesome twenty minute rendition of another Gershwin favorite ‘It Ain’t Necessarily So,’ and once again Mann and his bandmates take it to a completely different and amazing place.  With Herbie’s flute tracing a path through the middle east with it’s melodies, the track is highlighted by a solo from percussionist Chief Bey that literally brings the house down.

I mean that…literally.

Note: The above recording was the only video of this song I could find and for some reason he sped it up to 45.  Trust me when I tell you the original is 100 times better…and longer.

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