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Crate Digger’s Gold: Herbie Mann – Windows Opened

June 6, 2013

Herbie Mann Windows Open

I have been a Herbie Mann fan forever. As a kid I was infatuated with the piccolo and asked my parents if I could get one and learn to play.  My folks checked into it and learned you don’t just pick up the piccolo and play it in 4th grade – you need to learn to play the flute first.  So they rented me a flute and I started talking lessons.  I had a great teacher in a guy named Mr. Schulte (sp?) at the MacPhail Center for Music in Minneapolis.  One of the cool things that Mr Schulte used to do for me is a blind test – I would turn my back and he would play two flutes – one a cheap flute ant the other a fine quality flute and ask me which one I preferred – I consistently picked the finer instrument and he treated me as genius for my golden ears.

Things progressed and I got reasonably good at the flute.  I entered Junior High and naturally joined the band only to learn that the flute was a girl’s instrument.  Insecure I quit before the end of the year despite siting directly across from a girl my age who was sprouting breasts to my great amazement and admiration.

Fast forward to when I was about eighteen and in college and I discovered popular music.  I discovered Herbie Mann’s Brazil – Once Again in 1978 – first for the sexy cover, but ultimately for the groove/soul/jazz/disco on the platter.  I was hooked – here was a guy playing my sappy instrument in a funky and sexy way.

I picked up the flute again in the late 80’s when some buddies started a band.  I would amplify my flute and spice up some of our originals and our one cover – “The Girl from Ipanema” with some funky flute – take that Ron Burgundy (I had a cow bell too – say thank you whysowhite!).

Over the last few years in my vinyl renaissance I have been snapping up the Herbie Mann discography on vinyl.  Some are stinkers but most are pretty brilliant. My latest pick up is Windows Open from 1968 on Atlantic Records.  When I picked this out of of a vendors $1 bin at the recent Minnesota Record Show and turned it over to look at the credits I was blown away.  Check out these credits:  Roy Ayers – who would go on to be an acid jazz giant, Sonny Sharrock a free jazz giant, Mirosov Vitous who would become a founding member of Weather Report, and superstar producers Joel Dorn and Arif Mardin.

The cover was mint and still in shrink-wrap and the disc was in fine shape.  I threw it on the turntable tonight and it is a pretty stunning album mixing pop tunes and jazz tunes, but never pandering.  This is accessible, yet legitimate jazz.  Herbie is front and center proving the flute can be a legit jazz instrument and lead instrument.  Totally cool album – I will be spinning this quite a bit over the next few weeks.

  1. Yeah I have a few Herbie albums. Great story on the “flute”. Id like to hear some of that music you made.

  2. Flute, gymnastics and figure skating-somehow I ended up straight

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