Sam Most, bebop’s pre-eminent flute player as well as one of the first ones, died Thursday morning. He was 82 years old.
First gaining notice in the mid 1950s beginning with his single “Undercurrent Blues,” Most was also among the first to sing through his flute. Herbie Mann, Rahsaan Roland Kirk and Hubert Laws have all cited him as influential in their own renowned careers as flautists. Jazz historian Leonard Feather once stated that “Justice should demand that the history books document (Sam) Most’s role as the first truly creative Jazz Flutist.”
Most was also proficient on tenor sax and clarinet and recorded for the Prestige, Debut, Vanguard, Bethlehem labels in the 1950s and Xanadu in the 1970s. His recording activity as a leader picked up again in the last five years of life, having made four more albums since 2008.
In between those two periods of leading recording dates, Most had a stint in Buddy Rich’s band, and has served as a studio musician on records by Terry Gibbs, Red Norvo, Louie Bellson, Paul Quinichette, Clare Fisher, Tal Farlow, Ray Charles and Frank Sinatra.
One of his most notable recent recordings was a memorable encounter with distinguished clarinetist Mort Weiss, entitled Mort Weiss Meets Sam Most (2006).
In 2001, Edmond Goff released a documentary film he made on Most’s life, Sam Most, Jazz Flutist, which can be seen in the above video.
Most’s brother was the noted clarinetist Abe Most.