Jazz Flautist Sam Most (1930-2013): An Appreciation

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.

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S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron is a CPA and mid-level data analyst for a Fortune 100 company by day, music opinion-maker at night. His musings are strewn out across the interwebs on jazz.com, AllAboutJazz.com, a football discussion board and some inchoate customer reviews of records from the late 1990s on Amazon under a pseudonym that will never be revealed. Contact Something Else! at reviews@somethingelsereviews.com.
  • http://www.smsjazz.com mort weiss

    Thanks Victor for the sincere love & respect that you have givin Sam Most—-a celebration!!!!!! Mort

    • Nick DeRiso

      Beyond his terrific date with Mr. Weiss, I’d also recommend Most’s clarinet-playing mid-1950s project ‘Plays Bird, Bud, Monk and Miles’ — though I’ve only ever seen that album (featuring Paul Motion and Oscar Pettiford) on vinyl. Of his 1970s sides, the best is probably 1979’s ‘Flute Talk,’ with Joe Farrell, Roy McCurdy and others.

  • http://Www.sammost.com Rick Jasper

    I’d like to invite Sam’s friends, family and fans to share their memories of Sam at the http://www.sammost.com Guestbook.

    • http://www.smsjazz.com mort weiss

      Thanks Rick, how very thoughtful of you. Mort