The origins of this versatile “Woodwind” instrument ( meaning that it is played using breath control) go back to China in or around 900 B.C. The ancient Chinese referred to it as a “ch’ie”. Despite many design changes over the centuries, the distinctive sound of the flute has generally stayed the same. The instrument has been used in many different genre’s of music, but most predominantly in Jazz and Rock. Let’s take a look at some of the musicians who were immortalized in music history for their mastery of this great instrument.
Depending on which era of 20th Century music you look at, there were flutists who, like the trumpeters I discussed earlier, were the driving influences behind changes to the playing techniques, and the overall interpretation of how to play the flute. Late in the 19th Century, and in the early 20thcentury, lived one of France’s most influential flutists. His name was Marcel Moyse.
Marcel Moyse was born in St. Armour, France on May 17, 1889. He studied at the Paris Conservatory under 3 of that era’s most influential flute players: Phillipe Gaubert ( 1879-1941), Adolphe Hennebains ( 1862-1914), and Paul Taffanel ( 1844-1908). He taught at the music conservatory in Montreal, Quebec, and also founded the Marlboro Music School, and the festival named after it. Some of his brightest students went on to stellar careers of their own including; James Galway, William Bennett, Trever Wye, and Jean-Claude Gerard. He passed away at the age 0f 95, on November 1st 1984. Fortunately for us his huge legacy of incredible music is preserved forever on record and compact disc.
Here in Canada we also have some flutists who rose to legendary status. One of the most respected and admired flutists in Canadian music history was Moe Koffman. He was born Morris Koffman, in Toronto, Canada, on December 28, 1928. He attended the Toronto Conservatory Of Music in the 1940’s; and by 1950 he moved to the United States where he recorded with The Jimmy Dorsey Orchestra, and other bands of that era. In 1958 he moved back to Toronto, where he formed his own quintet and performed with some of the most respected flutists of the day including; Herbie Mann, Yusef Lateef, and Jeremy Steig. Later in his career, during the 1980’s , he worked with the legendary John “Dizzy” Gillespie, and Peter Appleyard.
In 1993 he was awarded “The Order Of Canada”; and in 1997 was inducted into the Canadian Music Hall Of Fame. He is also probably best remembered by many for his long association with Rob McConnell’s Boss Brass. He was a highly sought after guest soloist on many albums with a veritable who’s who in Canadian music, including Cinema Face’s “ Face Card” in 1996. Mr. Koffman passed away March 28, 2001 in Orangeville, Ontario. Fortunately for his many fans he left behind a wealth of musical hits; and influenced many young musicians.
Another famous Canadian flutist is better known to his fans as a founding member of The Guess Who, and a singer who’s solo career has sold millions of albums. I am talking of course about Burton Cummings. He is also an accomplished saxophone player from his days in The Deveron’s”.
Probably his most requested flute solo is from the song “Undun” from the “Canned Wheat” album in 1969. This is the song that Mr. Cummings referred to as; “ one of the greatest songs that Randy Bachman ever wrote, and I was just lucky enough to be the guy who got to sing it”.