America/Brasil is a rollicking, celebratory album that keeps Herbie Mann on the winning streak he started with the release of Peace Pieces in 1995. Recorded during a week of concerts to mark his 65th birthday in April 1995, this disc is much stronger than its immediate predecessor, Celebration, also taken from the same week of live concert performances at New York's Blue Note jazz club. The material here is superb, and the playing top-notch. As the title implies, the emphasis here is on Mann's Brazilian side, but there are touches of the non-Brazilian with Bill Evans' "Peri's Scope" and Miles Davis' "All Blues." "Summertime" is recast in an Afro-Cuban mode with Paquito D'Rivera sharing the solo space on alto sax. However, lengthy Brazilian showstoppers are placed at the beginning, middle, and end of this wonderful disc. The opening "Keep the Spirits Singing" is propelled by the polyrhythmic pulse of percussionists Cyro Baptista and "Café," and the 17-minute title track finale features trumpeters Randy Brecker and Claudio Roditi, trombonist Jim Pugh, and guitarist Romero Lubambo.
In the 1950s, Herbie Mann frequently shared the spotlight on record dates with other flutists. This V.S.O.P. LP, a reissue of a set originally for Mode and also out for awhile on Premier, matches Mann (who here also plays piccolo, clarinet and tenor) with Buddy Collette (switching between flute, clarinet, tenor and alto) in a quintet with pianist Jimmy Rowles, bassist Buddy Clark and drummer Mel Lewis. The results are generally pleasing, if somewhat lightweight, with such obscure tunes as "Here's Buddy," Rowles' "Pop Melody," "Here's Pete" and Mann's "Theme from 'Theme From'" alternating with three standards and Chico Hamilton's "Morning After."
In 1978, Herbie Mann came out with two very different LPs. The more improvisatory Brazil: Once Again fulfilled his need to record a serious Brazilian jazz-pop album, while Super Mann is a commercial disco effort that finds Patrick Adams doing most of the producing. The two LPs aren't anything alike – while the instrumental Brazil: Once Again makes extensive use of the flutist's jazz chops, Mann doesn't do any improvising on Super Mann. This album isn't about his virtuosity as a soloist – it's all about the beat and the groove. So naturally, Super Mann was trashed in the jazz press by critics who made the mistake of judging it by jazz standards and wouldn't have known a good disco record from a bad one. Judging Super Mann by disco standards, one hears an LP that is uneven and isn't in a class with Chic, Gloria Gaynor, Donna Summer, or Sister Sledge but has its moments. While "Jisco Dazz" and "Rock Freak" are mechanical, stiff, and forgettable, Mann gets into a nice samba/disco groove on "Etagui" and demands attention with a speeded-up version of the haunting "Body Oil" (which he had previously recorded for 1975's Waterbed).
The beat goes on, and Herbie Mann gets plenty darn groovy – serving up these short, soulful tunes that really pack a sweet little punch – thanks in part to some excellent work on vibes by the young Roy Ayers! Ayers' rings out next to Herbie's flute in a very cool way – almost Latin, but a bit groovier overall, with some echoes of bossa and 60s soundtrack jazz – all mixed with deeper soul currents that are very much in the best 60s jazz spirit of Atlantic Records! Jimmy Wisner handles the arrangements, and also plays some mean piano. Titles include Dave Pike's "Dream Garden", which was arranged by Pike himself – plus Herbie Mann's "West African High Life", and Herbie Hancock's "Hey Ho" – as well as the cuts "No Matter What Shape", "More Rice Than Peas, Please", "Soul Montuno", and "The Beat Goes On".
Remarkably few of flutist Herbie Mann's recordings are available on CD, but fortunately this one did get reissued. Mann's hit version of "Comin' Home Baby" from this live set became his first big hit. Composer Ben Tucker plays second bass on that cut, and Mann's other sidemen include vibraphonist Hagood Hardy, bassist Ahmed Abdul-Malik, drummer Rudy Collins, and Chief Bey and Ray Mantilla on percussion. In addition to "Comin' Home Baby," Mann and his men perform memorable versions of "Summertime" and "It Ain't Necessarily So"; the latter is 20 minutes long. Recommended.
This is a remarkably consistent set flowing naturally from one tune to another…The contributions from pianists Eduardo Simon, and Mark Soskins and from New Orleans drummer Ricky Sebastian are superb, providing a consistently subtle and sympathetic backdrop to Mann's flute…It is a rewarding listen; gentle, lyrical and very well produced. If you like your Jobim you won't go wrong here.