Throwback: Bobbi Humphrey-Blacks And Blues



Bobbi Humphrey started playing the flute while attending high school in her native Dallas, Texas. Dizzy Gillespie heard her play when she was a student at Southern Methodist University and encouraged her to move to New York City to make a career for herself. She took his advice and she relocated to the city in 1971 and became the first woman artist to get a deal with Blue Note Records. Black and Blues was the third of her six recordings for Blue Note and it put her at the front of the jazz/R&B fusion vanguard. Larry Mizell wrote and produced all of the songs while his brother Fonce played the trumpet, clavinet and added vocals. Their street smart soul infusions into the jazz idiom took Humphrey’s flute into her widest market and got her recognition from Billboard and the Montreux Jazz Festival. “Blacks and Blues” the single, has been reworked by MF Doom, Digable Planets, Madlib and Eric B & Rakim. “Harlem River Drive” from the Blacks and Blues album is another essential source of hip-hop samples that embedded Humphrey’s music into another generation. Fancy Dancer was her last time working with the Mizells and they produced more sublime jazzy funk with the songs “Uno Esta,” “Please Set Me At Ease” and “The Trip” with Chuck Davis. Humphrey’s contract ended with Blue Note and she went to Epic where she continued to make stellar fusion records. “Sunset Burgundy” from her 1978 Freestyle album is the first recorded composition by Marcus Miller. “Lover To Lover” from her 1977 Tailor Made album was another sterling piece of fusion recorded during the same year she played on Stevie Wonder’s Songs In The Key Of Life. Humphrey eventually established her own independent label in 1994 to release her Passion Flute album. In 2006 she did a rare video interview with CUNY.TV and in April of 2013 she appeared at The Schomburg Center for a 40th anniversary celebration of the song “Harlem River Drive.”