After adding Cuban-born conguero Carlos "Patato" Valdes to his backing group on the recommendation of jazz DJ Sid Torin, Herbie Mann mounted a State Department-sponsored tour of Africa that further expanded his musical horizons -- Flautista!, recorded live at New York City's Basin Street East in June 1959, captures the flutist's deepening immersion in global rhythms and harmonies, documenting a pan-cultural jazz aesthetic that points the way for the myriad world music efforts that followed in its wake. Favoring a subtle, thoughtful combination of bebop melodies and Afro-Cuban rhythms, the group -- also including Valdes, vibraphonist Johnny Rae, bassist Knobby Totah, and percussionists Santos Miranda and Luis Mangual -- delivers a beautifully light yet hypnotically insistent performance that suffers from none of the awkwardness endemic among these kinds of early fusion efforts. Mann even detours to the Far East for a cool, graceful rendition of the exotica staple "Caravan." Verve's 1998 reissue appends a pair of unreleased cuts, "Delilah" and "Basin Street Este."
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AllMusic Review by Jason Ankeny