April 29, 2001
STEFANO BENINI/SAM MOST
Splasc(H) CDH 822.2
Intergenerational musical meetings can either be embarrassing or exhilarating. Just because certain musicians share the same instrument, the same stylist preferences or the same country doesn't mean that they'll actually hit it off together.
But this mixture of several age groups works because each of the co-leaders is a flute fanatic. One of the first jazz flute role models, Sam Most — born in 1930 — made his name in the 1950s and early 1960s with the bands of, among others, Buddy Rich, Louie Bellson and Teddy Wilson. Most of the intervening years have been spent in the Hollywood studios or with pick-up bands in small Los Angeles nightclubs.
Born in 1955, a full two years (!) after Most recorded his first LP as a leader, Stefano Benini has led or co-lead bands in Italy since the early 1990s. The reason for his congruence with the older flutist would seem to be scholarship. Most literally wrote the book on the subject, Jazz Flute Conceptions, while Benini, with a diploma in flute from Turin's Giuseppe Verdi conservatory, has also authored a clutch of jazz-oriented flute publications. The two flautists played together at the Verona Jazz Festival a couple of years ago and a duo CD seemed the next logical step.
Backed by an unobtrusive, though highly competent local rhythm section, the two work their way through a program of standards and originals that falls more into Most's bailiwick than Benini's. This is modern, not revivalist jazz, though on the more "outside" sections, the older piper shows that he can keep up with his quarter century younger partner.
"Flute Rei", for instance, introduced by Benini's, mournful bass flute — which sounds as if it was recorded in an ancient Roman temple — soon finds Most's rasping alto flute lines buzzing around the larger instruments. When the piano, bass and drums enter, the tune resolves itself as a straightahead swinger, complete with drum solo. Switching roles to accompanist and from flute to piano, Most backs the younger man's flute exploration of "Lover Man", on which Benini uses the techniques of "singing" into the flute, which most folks associate with Rahsaan Roland Kirk, but was actually first utilized by Most. Similarly, the older man's key voicings and finger marches on what soon becomes a rootsy version of the standard show that he can be inventive on more than one instrument.
Stepping into the recording studio spot opposite Most, where the likes of Herbie Mann stood years ago, Benini seems perfectly matched with his mentor. Most of the tunes feature the sort of unison flute themes Most, Mann, Frank Wess, Moe Koffman and others perfected nearly a half century ago, and not one of the Italians do anything to upset those conventions. The result is a set of fast-paced swingers in a style that calls equally upon West Cost cool, "progressive jazz" modern studio techniques and the odd Latin fillip, courtesy of Walter Paoli's drums. "Sam's Blues," may cause Benini to bring out his bass flute again, but no one is pretending that any of the tunes are more than high quality entertainment.
Overall, a pleasant, relaxed set with nary a hint of any type of madness — flute or otherwise.
— Ken Waxman
Track Listing: 1. Divine Wine 2. Into Somewhere 3. Flute Madness 4. Merlino 5. Flute Rei 6. Sam's Blues 7. Lover Man* 8. Nu Friends 9. Polka Dot and Moonbeams 10. Unnamed extra track
Personnel: Stefano Benini (flute, bass flute); Sam Most (flute, alto flute, piano*); Marcello Tonolo (piano); Lorenzo Conte (bass); Walter Paoli (drums)