When Sam Most died in June, obituaries praised him for bringing the flute into the modern jazz age. Though Jerome Richardson predated Most on flute in a small group with Lionel Hampton in 1950, Most was first to pull the instrument out of its floral, bucolic role and give it a bop twist on Undercurrent Blues. The early 1953 track for Prestige was so radical at the time that Herbie Mann paid tribute in a later interview: “When I started playing jazz on flute, there was only one record out: Sam Most’s Undercurrent Blues.” Buddy Collette, Frank Wess and many others soon followed on the flute, giving the nickel-plated stick a new swinging personality.
Of course, Most didn't just play the flute. Like most reed players of the LP era, when the demand by recording studios for accomplished players picked up, Most doubled on tenor and clarinet to ensure he stayed busy. An album that shows off his enormous talent playing bebop clarinet is Sam Most Plays Bird, Bud, Monk and Miles. The March 1957 Bethlehem recording has been remastered and reissued by the Verse Music Group, which earlier this year acquired the Bethlehem catalog.
Most's eight-song LP was divided into two sessions—one featuring Most leading a 16-piece orchestra and another with Most fronting a sextet. Bluebird (Parker), 'Round Midnight (Monk), Strictly Confidential (Powell) and Serpent's Tooth (Davis) were the band tracks while Celia (Powell), Confirmation (Parker), Half Nelson (Davis) and In Walked Bud (Monk) were recorded by the smaller group.
Both bands were made up of a fascinating combination of East Coast musicians. The big band featured Chuck Harmon, Doug Mettome, Edward Reider, Al Stewart, Don Stratton (tp) Jim Dahl, Bill Elton, Frank Rehak (tb) Sam Most (cl) Dick Meldonian, Dave Schildkraut (as) Eddie Wasserman (ts) Marty Flax (bar) Bob Dorough (p,arr,cond) Oscar Pettiford (b) and Paul Motian (d). [Photo of Al Stewart above by Tandy Stewart, August 2009]
On the small group sessions, the sextet featured Doug Mettome (tp) Sam Most (cl) Dave Schildkraut (as) Bob Dorough (p) Tommy Potter (b) and Paul Motian (d).
What's most surprising here are the hip, fresh orchestral arrangements handled by Bob Dorough [pictured above], who also conducted. Dorough, of course, would become better known for his cool, casual singing style and hip songwriting. Dorough here has exquisite taste writing for a bop band, keeping the excitement, speed and daring front and center. As hard an instrument as the clarinet is, Most made it sound easy.
JazzWax note: Verse has selected 20 Bethlehem titles to release as part of the "Mastered for iTunes" program. To see what's avaialble at iTunes, go here
In addition, 25 select titles will be released in LP, CD and mp3 formats available on Amazon and select independent retailers. A one-stop page for a preview is to go here.
The next round of 12-inch vinyl and CD issues will be released October, 29, 2013...
- Zoot Sims—Down Home
- Donald Byrd & Pepper Adams—Motor City Scene
- Bobby Troup—The Songs of Johnny Mercer
JazzWax tracks: You'll find Sam Most Plays Bird, Bud, Monk and Miles (Bethlehem) remastered only at iTunes here.
JazzWax clip: Here's Sam Most and His Orchestra on Bud Powell's Strictly Confidential, arranged by Bob Dorough...