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Humdinger

Sam Most sets the tone for the bebop style on flute.

July 23, 1998|ZAN STEWART | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Sam Most is the father of the modern jazz flute.

Hey, don't think I'm the first one to make this statement. Such great flutists as James Moody, Yusef Lateef, Herbie Mann and Rahsaan Roland Kirk have extolled the virtues of Most, the longtime Tarzana resident who was born in Atlantic City, N.J., grew up in New York and has been an active jazz player since the late '40s.

Though Most, 68, doesn't readily like being celebrated, he acknowledged that he was one of the first to offer the Charlie Parker bebop idiom style on flute.

"The lines seemed to adapt themselves," he said.

Most was also the first jazzman to simultaneously hum and play notes on the flute, a style that was made famous in jazz by Kirk and Lateef, and in rock by Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson.

"I was living in an apartment in New York in the early '50s and I couldn't make a lot of noise late at night," he said. "So I found that by standing in the closet, playing and humming the same notes, I could hear myself and not disturb the neighbors."

Most appears tonight with Buddy Collette's quintet at the Skirball Cultural Center in the Sepulveda Pass, filling in for the veteran reed and woodwind artist Collette, who recently suffered a stroke. Although Most also plays saxophones and clarinet, flute has remained his primary instrument.

"I'm the most comfortable with it," he said.

He's also right at home with the language of bebop, and has long been one of its finest exponents.

"When I was a teenager, bebop, played by people like Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie, was in the air," he said. "I just seemed like I could express myself with that kind of musical grammar."

Most's career has included stints with Tommy Dorsey and Buddy Rich, performances with such jazz greats as Lester Young, Stan Getz and Ray Brown, and numerous recordings. He said that playing jazz for close to 50 years has taught him several things. One is that aesthetic honesty is essential. Another is that less is usually more.

"In a solo, I try to get to the kernel of the thing," he said. "Play some choice notes instead of just running all over the place."

Despite his pedigree, Most doesn't work very often. He admitted to not being a hustler and said that he'd often rather practice at home than go through the hassle of booking himself into a club.

"I like playing jazz more than anything else, but it's a difficult way to make a living," he said.

So, although feeling bad that Collette was ill, Most was happy for the work. He's played with Collette off and on since the '60s, and appears on the latter's latest "Jazz From Thousand Oaks" CD. Said Most, "Buddy has a wonderful sound on flute and his tunes are very good vehicles for improvising."

* Sam Most plays with Buddy Collette's quintet tonight, 7:30 p.m., at the Skirball Cultural Center, 2701 N. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles. Free; $5 for parking. (310) 440-4500.

MORE BOP: Trumpeter Conte Candoli, a journeyman like Most, has had many of the same influences, primarily Parker and Gillespie. He liked "Bird" the first time he heard him.

"He had great timing, great pacing; he was just magic," said Candoli, who plays with two fellow beboppers, saxophonists Med Flory and Lanny Morgan, as part of Be Bop Heaven on Earth on Sunday at the John Ford Amphitheater in Hollywood.

Candoli hopes to play a Parker tune or two, maybe the classic "Confirmation."

"It feels different every time I play it, and I always seem to find something new to say," said the trumpet ace, whose latest album is "Portrait of a Count."

* Be Bop Heaven on Earth, Sunday at 8:30 p.m. at the John Anson Ford Amphitheatre, 2580 Cahuenga Blvd. E.; $25, $20; (213) 461-3673).

*

ALL-STAR FREEBIE: Drummer Frank Capp's Juggernaut includes some grand L.A.-area players in its lineup, among them trumpeters Frank Szabo and Ron Stout, trombonist Alan Kaplan, saxophonists Ann Patterson and Plas Johnson, and the boisterous blues belter Barbara Morrison.

* Hear Juggernaut gratis on Sunday, 5:30 to 7:30 p.m., at the Lou Bredlow Pavilion, Warner Park, 5800 Topanga Canyon Blvd. (at Califa), Woodland Hills. Parking, $2. Call (818) 704-1587.

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