Things got off to a slightly bad start with a few breathy, awkward notes from Mann. He has not been in the best health lately, and it sounded for a moment as if his playing had suffered. Those hasty conclusions were soon put to rest, as Mann warmed up and soared on the next number, a funky New Orleans reworking of an old Charlie Parker tune. Mann's best moment came soon thereafter, on a song written by Goldstein with the working title "The Fastest Flute in the West." On his tenor flute, which gave him a rich, warm tone, Mann was at his rawest and most inventive. Here was the good old Herbie Mann, proving again that being popular doesn't mean you can't get up and blow right.
Among the band members, the only outright sore thumb was Mann's son Geoff. His talking drum work and funky drumming were fine. But for some of the softer numbers, especially the ones featuring the nylon string guitar or Goldstein on accordion, Geoff's drumming ranged from unnecessary to intrusive. There's no shame in sitting out the occasional tune. Toward the end of the set, Mann trotted out pieces of the Latin funk-lite variety: the sort of bossa-fusion stuff that has characterized much of his later career. Though Mann put in a few interesting ideas, and the band acquitted itself on the material, it was all a little too bland -- especially in comparison to the front half of the concert. But by then, Mann had already proved himself. -- Aaron Steinberg