International Society for Jazz Research

Aspekte zur Entwicklung des Flötenspiels

im Jazz zwischen 1950 und 1980

The flute, canonized, used to charm rats, snakes and men, has accompanied the history and stories of mankind for thousands of years. In almost all cultures, it still plays a central role today. Curious, yes strange, that the flute was left out of consideration for a long time, subsequently even derided, ostracized, but at least remained indifferently thought of in the most humane, steadily searching, improvising idiom of popular music, in jazz.

The first recording of a solo with a European concert flute in jazz dates from the year 1928: the Cuban, Alberto Socarras, played it with the Clarence Williams Orchestra. Nevertheless, Socarrases, Wayne Carver's and Harry Klee's flute excursions in the thirties and forties, remained odd, as well as producing no lasting effect. The European flute won wider listening recognition for the first time in the chamber-music- like manner of playing jazz on the American West Coast. A row of primarily studio musicians took hold of the flute as a second or third instrument. No one succeeded, however, in dispelling the negative European cliches concerning the flute: Pan, Arcadia and shepherd idylls dominated flute playing in West Coast Jazz. The Count Basie saxophonist and flutist Frank Wess was the first to experience success in dispelling the dis-reputable image of this instrument in jazz, with his Iyrical Blues orientation. At the beginning of the sixties, Eric Dolphy and Roland Kirk were the Afro- American multi-instrumentalists—the former as a mentor of the avant garde and modern, the latter as a keeper of the Black Blues tradition—who developed an independent idiom from the concert flute and restrained the flute's western heritage. Hubert Laws melted exactly this heritage in his playing, by making use of Afro- American creative means. In the train of Jazz-Rock-Fusion, the flute became electricized. Jeremy Steig was the first to consequently use the possibilities of electronic amplification and additional electronic equipment; he created an original and unmistakable style, with his distinct blowing technique. Increasingly more musicians discovered the rich flute traditions through Free Jazz, and by turning towards music cultures of the Third World; the Euro-centric view point made way for cosmo-musical interest. The most important contemporary flutist, James Newton, binds together in his brilliant playing the jazz tradition, avant garde-like flute music and ethnic styles of playing.