The flute is a well-established classica and world music instrument. Great flute players abound in tropical latin music, e.g. José Fajardo, Richard Egues, Johnny Pacheco just to name a few. Occasionally a flute player hits big in pop music, e.g. Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull, but in jazz there have never been very many flute players. Doublers who play sax, clarinet, and flute, but as a primary horn the flute is a minor species in jazz.
Jazz sax players, pianists: tons of them all over the world. And great jazz flute players: you can pretty much count them on one hand. Hubert Laws, the Cuban flutist Maraca, and Dave Valentin (whose teacher was Hubert Laws) come to mind. So does the late Joe Farrell, who worked with Chick Corea’s band Return to Forever. Herbie Mann popularized jazz flute but wasn’t much on good flute sound or improvisations, though his music had nice groove appeal. Kent Jordan was, but has disappeared, perhaps into academia in New Orleans.
There was recently a touching piece on Dave Valentin in the New York Times Magazine that tracked his daily routine:
Then I hear on Ned Sublette’s superb blog Nedslist that Dave Valentin suffered a stroke. He’d already had a heart attack in January (the cardiologist who treated him was a flute player and asked for his autograph, which Valentin gave him—after the operation! And now a debilitating stroke. For a musician, this is catastrophic.
I’m a flute player who’s admired Dave’s work for a long time so I sent a check. You can to if you’re so moved: here is the info:
For those who wish to support Valentin on his road to recovery, tax deductible donations can be sent to the laudable organization that has already begun to help the flutist in his time of need, The Jazz Foundation of America, 322 West 48th Street, New York, NY 10036. All checks or money orders should note Dave Valentin in the memo line.
Here is a video of Dave Valentin at work:
and a tabula rasa improvised flute solo that blows everybody away: