Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Jazz Flute

Jazz as a genre is a pretty complicated topic, and I am not qualified to expound on it. Jazz flute, on the other hand, is a topic about which I might have something interesting to say. I was just out of college when I first heard a  jazz flutist who made me rethink my entire perception of jazz in general and jazz flute in particular. 

The flutist was Hubert Laws, and his album The Rite of Spring was the recording that did it. The selections on that album included improvised versiosn of Syrinx, Amazing Grace, and other Classical works. What made me sit up and take notice was the beautiful sound he had. Up to that time, most of the jazz flutists I had heard could improvise 'til the cows came home, but they did it with a less than focused flute tone. This performer was a Juilliard graduate who had studied with Julius Baker. He had his ducks in a row. Many years later I would have the pleasure of interviewing Laws for Flute Talk magazine.

As editor of Flute Talk I met and interviewed several jazz flutists over the years. Three of them just happen to have a You Tube video together. What makes the video special is that each player represents something unique. The players are Ali Ryerson, Greg Pattillo, and Zachary Kellogg. Ryerson, as a female jazz flutist, is unique right there. There just aren’t that many female jazz flutists out there, and she is fabulous. 

Greg Pattillo represents a whole new genre of flute playing; known as the "beat boxing flutist", he developed a style of beat boxing that works on the flute. When the flute world discovered that he was around, they went wild for him. 

Zachary Kellogg is 11 years old in this video. That alone makes him unique. That he could hold his own with Ryerson and Pattillo says a lot about his talent. 

At one time or another, I interviewed each of these players. The video you are about to see was shot in a hotel lobby at a National Flute Association convention, and I experienced their artistry live. I was sitting next to the person who shot the video. (Ryerson is performing on an alto flute, which explains the extra length and the curve on the end of her flute.)

To hear examples of beat boxing go to In this video Pattillo improvises on the Super Mario theme. Enjoy! At the very least I think these takes will bring a smile to your face.


  1. I don't listen to much jazz anymore and to be honest I had never thought of the flute as a jazz instrument. I'll have to go do some listening.

  2. I love jazz flute. There is a quite famous jazz flute player in my country and every time I hear him he just blows my mind.

    Greetings from the A to Z trail,
    Sylvia @ Playful Creative