Thursday, October 06, 2011

Sam Most - The Master of the Bebop flute.

Legendary jazz bebop flautist in concert with Rein De Graaff Trio
The worlds greatest jazz flautist (Charles Mingus)
Hans Koert

Sam Most - The Master of the Bebop Flute (English) Sam Most: jazzlegende te gast bij Rein De Graaff (Nederlands)

A few years ago I was pointed by Fernando Gelbard to flute, clarinet and alto saxophone player Samuel Most, better known as Sam Most. This bebop flute player seems to be almost forgotten now and that is undeserved, as he was one of the first to play bebop on flute. Rein de Graaff, Dutch senior piano player and promoter of jazz concerts with legendary, forgotten jazz musicians, heard him, while in LA last year and invited him to come over to Europe for a small tour. This month, Sam Most, 80 years old now, can be heard in the Netherlands in a couple of concerts in Groningen, Dordrecht, Leiden, Heist-op-den-berg, Deventer, The Hague and Heerde with the Rein De Graaff Trio, enlarged with Ellister Van Der Molen, a young Dutch trumpet player.

Sam Most and Joe Farrell ( photo courtesy: Don Schlitten - Xanadu Records)
He was among the first to sing or hum the melody lines into his flute while playing. The New Grove Dictionary describes this as: Players using this technique sing with the instrumental line, and the resulting combination of differing timbres and intonations creates a low-pitched buzzing quality. Later musicians like Herbie Mann would develop this way of playing: Sam Most was the first jazz flautist to sing and play together. (Herbie Mann) and in the 1960s and 1970s musicians like Yuseef Lateef and Roland Kirk adopted this technique.
Sam Most and Frank Collett at Sage and Sound studios - Hollywood (1986) (photo courtesy: Fernando Gelbard)
Sam Most was born in Atlantic City, December 1930. He had a (much) older brother Abe Most, who became a professional clarinet player in swing bands and who played with Les Brown, Bob Crosby, Wild Bill Davison and Tommy Dorsey. Sam was raised in a musical family; both is father and mother, born Lithuanian, loved to sing. As a young child he and his family moved to New York City, as an anonymous had threatened to kidnap the twins ( Sam was part of a twins) if his parents wouldn't pay US$ 10,000. When Sam was 17 he became fascinated by musicians like Ben Webster and Erroll Garner and founded his own group. Late 1940s he toured with Shep Fields for eight month and played with Tommy Dorsey and Charles Mingus, who labelled him as the
Worlds Greatest Jazz Flautist.
Fernando Gelbard and Sam Most (at the piano) rehearsing for the album Any Time Any Season (1986) (photo courtesy: Fernando Gelbard)
One of his first albums was with his own group, the Sam Most Quartet plus Two, featuring Doug Mettome on trumpet, Urbie Green on trombone, Bob Dorough at the piano, Percy Heath on bass and Blue Bells ( = Louis Bellson) on drums. During the 1950s he played with great names like Paul Quinichette, Herbie Mann, our Dutch born accordion player Mat Mathews and his colleague Angelo di Pippo, still active nowadays, but less known here, Pat Moran and Chubby Jackson. In 1954 Sam Most won the New Star Down Beat poll.
Sam is responsible for several great albums during this period, like Sam Most plays Bird, Bud, Monk and Miles ( on Bethlehem)( 1957); with his sextets (the before mentioned 1954 released Debut album) and can be heard on Moods by Paul Quinichette All Stars, which was recently reissued by Lonehilljazz ( Paul Quinichette plays Quincy Jones ) ( LHJ10346) lps. It was the only one I could listen to and it's really a pity that most of his early records are now rare collectors items, that deserve to be reissued.
Tal Farlow and Sam Most ( on clarinet) (photo courtresy: Don Schlitten - Xanadu Records)
During the years to follow Sam moves to the West Coast and finds a job at the numerous studio bands, thanks to his brother Abe. He can be heard in the bands of Buddy Rich with Sammy Davis Jr., Tommy Vig and Louis Bellson, but he also made some great albums like But Beautiful, Flute Flight and Mostly Flute, which is said to be one of the best albums Sam Most recorded, featuring Duke Jordan and Tal Farlow. Hope to hear one of these in future! Enjoy the tune The Eyes Have It, recorded by the Sam Most Quartet featuring Sam Most on flute, George Muribus piano, Putter Smith bass and Will Bradley jr. drums. The tune was released on the album But Beautiful, recorded in Hollywood, the 16th of May, 1976.
From the 1970s onwards Sam made records for Xanadu and he is the author of several books about Jazz, like Metamorphosis Transformation of the Jazz solo and Jazz Improvisation - a manual about improvisation for young jazz students. In the documentary Sam Most - Jazz Flautist by Fernando Gelbard, Sam quotes Clarke Terry about the three phases in learning how to play jazz: imitate, assimilate and innovate.(quote: Clarke Terry)., produced by Fernando Gelbard has released four albums by Sam Most, available at all digital stores worldwide (Itunes, Amazon, Emusic, Napster etc) and also as cd's from Soon two albums of bebop flute solos (no rhytm section) with original tunes by Sam based on standard's chords, will be released soon. If you write to , you can ask for a free mp3 song from any of the albums, including the not released ones, valid until the 30th of November, 2011.
Sam Most (1986) (photo courtesy: Fernando Gelbard)
He is still active playing the flute, the clarinet, but he is also a great scat singer, as he demonstrates on Route 66, at a concert at More Art's Stage One with with Gary Fukashima (piano) Ryan McGillicuddy (bass) and Ryan Doyle (drums).

Sam Most will visit The Netherlands for seven concerts with the Rein De Graaff Trio ( featuring Rein De Graaff at the piano, Marius Beets at the bass and Eric Ineke on drums.). Ellister Van Der Molen will play as a guest on most gigs too. More info about these concerts at the Dutch version of this blog: Sam Most: Jazz legende te gast bij Rein de Graaff.
Hans Koert
Sam Most is one of those jazz legends of the 1950s that seems to be forgotten now. During the 1950s he was the first one who played bebop on his flute. He used the technique of humming and singing, while playing the melody line on his flute, which gives a very special effect, that fits well into his music. Sam Most is scheduled with the Rein De Graaff Trio in a Dutch tour labelled as Master of the Flute. The trio of Rein will be enlarged with Ellister Van Der Molen on trumpet and in Groningen with Ben van Gelder on alto saxophone. Keep Swinging hopes to be at one of the concerts to enjoy this great Legend of Bebop. If you don't want to miss any Keep Swinging contribution, follow it at Twitter ( #keepswinging) or ask for its free newsletter ( which has a Dutch and an English version.

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Blogger UFO Bass said...

What a pleasure to read about the great Sam Most - one of America's treasures, all too often overlooked, but given respectful notice in your blog.
Please permit be to boast that I have performed with him for several decades, taught music with him to children after school, recorded with him twice - and to have joined him in a jam session with the King of Thailand!

His fans might look for "Jazz for Thousand Oaks" and "Pacific Standard Time," two "live" CDs produced on my UFO Bass label. (The first features an octet led by another flute legend, Buddy Collette, plus former Count Basie trumpeter Albert Aarons, trombonist George Bohanon, pianist Ronnell Bright, drummer Ndugu Chancler and guitarist Alfred Viola.)
The other disc is a trio with the aforementioned Al Viola on guitar - the favorite plectrist of Frank Sinatra for several decades. This second CD has Sam singing and scatting in addition to his still-masterful flute playing.
With regard to his tone: it is crystal-clear and sensual. Jazz fans who are not yet familiar with Mr. Most should not be misled or offended by the multiple references to his "singing-through-the-flute"; in the several decades that I've known and worked with him, he has not resorted to that rather gimmicky technique. Instead, he breathes subtlety and color into his instrument, painting his ideas as with a feather, using whisper-soft pianissimo to limn his brilliant phrases.

4:33 PM  
Anonymous Hans said...

Thanks UFO-Bass

I'm anxious to learn more about those Sam Most records. Can you contact me at keepswinging at live point nl ?


3:08 PM  

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