SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — Herbie Mann, the versatile jazz flutist who combined a variety of musical styles and deeply influenced genres such as world music and fusion, has died. He was 73.
Mr. Mann, who had struggled with prostate cancer since 1997, died late Tuesday, according to a friend, Sy Johnson. A funeral home in Santa Fe said it was making arrangements with Mr. Mann’s family.
He had moved to Santa Fe in the late 1980s after spending most of his life in his native New York City.
Mr. Mann always performed different styles, then combined them. He did bebop and cool jazz, and toured Africa, Brazil and Japan listening for new music.
“I just think he was a wonderful Pied Piper of jazz, drawing our attention to what’s happening around the world and the country,” said Mr. Johnson, a New York City composer who had known Mr. Mann for some 40 years. He called Mr. Mann “a guy who loved music of all kinds and eager to explore it all.”
Family of Mann, formed in 1973, played world music before it was called that. Mr. Mann’s best-selling “Memphis Underground” was a founding recording of fusion.
If a genie offered Mr. Mann anything he wanted, he said in a 1995 Associated Press interview, he would choose a big band including three rhythm sections for straight-ahead jazz, Brazilian music and soul.
“I’d be able to play all that music; I wouldn’t have to play any one thing all the time,” he said. “And I would always like to try to evolve the music to another step. Once you reach the point where you play it perfectly in a genre, to me it gets boring. Then I want to try to evolve by combining things.”
Born Herbert Solomon in Brooklyn in 1930, he started his career when he was 15, playing in groups at Catskill Mountain resorts for the summer. He studied saxophone but preferred flute. In the 1950s, after three years in the Army playing with the Army Band in Trieste, Italy, Mr. Mann toured France and Scandinavia.
He credited visits to Africa and Brazil in the early 1960s with changing his musical outlook.
“When I came back [from Africa], I hired [Babatunde] Olatunji, a Nigerian drummer living here, and we started doing music based on African motifs,” he told AP.
At 70, he put out a CD called “Eastern European Roots.”
“I’ve played Cuban music, but I’m not Cuban,” he told the Denver Rocky Mountain News. “I’ve played Brazilian music, but I’m not Brazilian. I’ve played jazz, but I’m not African-American. What I am is an Eastern European Jew. I love all the music I’ve played, but I wanted something that is mine. … I had been writing this music for years, but I never thought there was a place for me to play it.”
His last live performance was May 3 at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, where “he got a standing ovation for five minutes,” Mr. Johnson said.
“He had a lot of plans,” Mr. Johnson said. “His time may have been limited and he knew it, but he was a man of energy and an active life that would constantly churn up things.”