My First Flute Influences

My first connection to the flute was my brother, Alec. He banged on an old Artley and being the big brother I adored I wanted one, too. I played recorder in middle school and was assigned the clarinet in high school band. I worked my flute fingers raw to convince the band director to let me change to flute. Of course, it didn’t hurt that the flute section was filled with pretty girls.

My brothers Jeff & Alec

At home, my family listened to an amazing array of music. Besides what the 60’s produced in rock and folk, my mom would pick up records she thought looked interesting and some would become real hits. As you can see by the album covers, the flute got well represented – even before I played it.

Jethro Tull hit me first. My Sunday Feeling, their very first tune with the flute, was a total integration of flute as a rock instrument. No noodling or mood music, Anderson just threw the flute into the middle like a lead guitar. The rest is history. That first album, THIS WAS JETHRO TULL, still holds up even though it was eclipsed by AQUALUNG.

Next came Ian MacDonald playing flute with King Crimson. I Talk To The Wind, is a great ballad and has a wonderful flute and drum solo at the end that I copied note for note. Alec and I bought an album of MacDonald & Giles (the Crimson drummer) hoping for more of the same but there was no flute on it.

We also had a strange album with black and white knights on it called Sir SIR JOHN ALOT OF MERRIE ENGLANDE by Pentangle guitarist John Renbourn, who remains one of my favorite acoustic guitarist for life. On that album he teamed up with Ray Warleigh to produce some great flute/recorder and guitar duets that are still a staple in my repertoire.

Mom brought Elaine Shaffer’s Bach sonatas into our collection at the same time as Moe Koffman’s riff on them. Moe was a Canadian jazz flutist and his jazz-pop versions of Bach were fun – if fluffy. But I studied and emulated Shaffer’s meticulous form making it a base line of my sound at the time. When Rampal’s Bach sonata versions came into my sights, I was blown away by his speed and technique and poor Elaine fell by the way.

Did I really look like that?

Along with Rampal came Aurele Nicolet and Michel Debost to round out my French school influence and I suppose I’ve loved that sweet and mellifluous sound ever since – which became an integral part of the flutes I make.

Herbie Mann’s MEMPHIS UNDERGROUND and version of Battle Hymn of the Republic along with Tull’s Serenade To a Cuckoo and Dharma for One were as close as I got to hearing jazz. It was the one music form missing from our house. (I realized later that my first jazz influences came through a different source that I’ll save that for another blog) While the Claude Bolling Suite is fun, it never struck me as jazz. Rampal, for all his abilities, could never really let his hair down.

So there you have a rundown of the first influences in my flute development. Like other flutists, I spent my teen years focused on the classics, practicing too many hours a day and so missed out completely on glam rock. prog rock, disco and punk. Living at the end of a long dirt road miles from a very small town, I never had the benefit of music lessons and so was self taught along with whatever coaching the band director could give at school.

Alec is still a flute performer of some local standing 🙂

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