The world according to flutist and composer Herbie Mann was a utopian musical paradise where jazz is made up of of Afro-Cuban, Middle-Eastern, R&B, and nearly every other kind of music. In the 1960s, he discovered Brazil's bossa-nova; in the 1970s, he even found disco rhythms in jazz.
Unlike most of his contemporaries in jazz, when Mann began playing flute in 1940s he had no forefathers to learn from, no pioneers of jazz flute to idolize. He was forced to look elsewhere—both inside and outside of jazz—to develop his approach to jazz and the flute. Among numerous musical influences, Mann was particularly drawn to rhythms and melodies from South America and the Caribbean.
Herbie Mann was born Herbert Jay Solomon in Brooklyn, New York, on April 16, 1930. Early in his childhood, Mann was so enthralled with rhythm that he wanted to be a drummer. Instead, a cousin of his mother convinced him to play the clarinet.
In 1948, Mann began serving four years in the army and while stationed in Trieste, Italy, he began playing saxophone in the military band. After his discharge from the service, he saw a jazz scene overflowing with sax players and he fell back on his second instrument, the flute. When the Dutch accordionist, Mat Matthews, told him he was looking for a jazz flute player for the first album by the then unknown Carmen McRae, Herbie immediately jumped at the opportunity and spent days woodshedding before going into the studio. With this opportunity he was able to distinguish himself from other players as a jazz flutist, of which there were few.