WOODLAND HILLS—Jazz flute pioneer Sam Most, who helped introduce the flute into the modern jazz mainstream, passed away from pancreatic cancer on June 13 at the Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in Woodland Hills. He was 82.
Born on December 16, 1930 in
New Jersey and raised in
New York, Most drew his love of music thanks to his Lithuanian immigrant parents, Jacob Most and Dora Kaplan. Both aficionados of singing, his parents encouraged him and his siblings to pursue and foster musical interests.
His imbedded passion led him to embrace be-bop, and as he grew in stature as a musician, he became known for his scat singing and imaginative improvisations. He played with a range of diverse instrumentalists, including Tommy Dorsey, Donald Byrd, Herbie Mann, and Charles Mingus.
His first recording, “Undercurrent Blues,” in 1952 marked the first inclination of where the flute could potentially reach in modern jazz. In the early 1950s, he developed his distinct manner of playing the flute: he would hum or sing through the flute as he played. He is credited with being the first to hum and play at the same time, and his commitment to forge his own talents has influenced numerous jazz flutists such as Hubert Laws and Yusef Lateef.
Most studied at the Manhattan School of Music before joining the ranks of professionalism at the young age of 18. He formed his own groups while also playing in other bands, including the Buddy Rich orchestra from 1959 to 1961. After a 1961 tour, he relocated to
Los Angeles, wherein he spent the rest of his life. He released more than 20 recordings for various labels, including Xanadu, Vanguard, and Debut.
Most is survived by his two sisters, Fran Tutshen and Ruth Labensky, and his brother Bernard Durham. His older brother, Abe, also a noted musician, died in 2002.