Personnel: Herbie Mann (flute); Hagood Hardy (vibraphone); Ahmad Abdul-Malik, Ben Tucker (bass); Rudy Collins (drums); Ray Mantilla (conga drum, percussion); Chief Bey (African drum, percussion).
Recorded live at The Village Gate, New York, New York in 1961. Includes original release liner notes by Willis Conover.
At the Village Gate is the album that first brought Herbie Mann to widespread popular attention, thanks to the inclusion of "Comin' Home Baby," which soon became one of the flautist's signature songs. By the time of the record's release in 1962, however, Mann had already been a bandleader for years, honing his pioneering blend of Afro-Cuban and Brazilian music with hard bop's funky structures just under the public radar. As a result, At the Village Gate sounds more like a summation than a beginning. The nearly 40-minute album is a mere three tracks long, with an epic 20-minute version of "It Ain't Necessarily So" taking up the entirety of the second side of the original vinyl. The highlight, however, is a stunning take on the standard "Summertime," one that turns the Gershwin tune into an easy swinging, proto-bossa nova song that features a glorious extended solo by Mann over a conga beat. In its way, it's just as revelatory as Miles Davis' better-known recasting of the tune.