Sunday, November 4, 2018

Roland Kirk - 1964 - Gifts & Messages

Roland Kirk 
Gifts & Messages

01. The Things I Love 3:15
02. Petite Fleur 3:06
03. Hip Chops 3:32
04. Gifts And Messages 4:08
05. Vertigo Ro 4:02
06. March On, Swan Lake 4:07
07. My Heart At Thy Sweet Voice 3:22
08. Tears Sent By You 6:00
09. Where Does The Blame Lie? 2:50
10. Blues For C & T 3:05

Bass – Michael Fleming
Drums – Steve Ellington
Piano – Horace Parlan
Reeds [Manzello, Stritch], Tenor Saxophone, Flute, Siren – Roland Kirk

While this 1964 set is less renowned than its immediate follow-ups (I Talk with the Spirits and Rip Rig & Panic), it's one of the most straightforward hard bop sessions recorded by Roland Kirk (he added the "Rahsaan" in 1969) during his mid-'60s tenure at Mercury Records. As usual, Kirk plays between one and four reeds at a time throughout Gifts & Messages, his carefully thought-out yet often abandoned solos approaching free jazz at times. The assured hard bop of his backing trio, pianist Horace Parlan, bassist Michael Fleming and drummer Steve Ellington, does nothing to restrain Kirk's wilder fancies. The three are able to keep up with even his most outre offerings, such as "Vertigo Ro" and "Hip Chops," and are equally adept at the classically structured "March of Swan Lake" and the gentle "Petite Fleur." [Some reissues add a bonus track, the giddy improv "Jive Elephant."]

The fact that this is apparently somewhat difficult to find is a travesty, as it stands as one of his best albums (I got it by grabbing the also hard to find "Complete Mercury Recordings" box set). I consider the mid-60's to be Kirk's peak period and albums like "Rip, Rig & Panic", "The Copenhagen Concert" and this one are the reason. The skill, humor and invention displayed here is mindbending and it's possibly his most eclectic album ever (which is saying a lot). The playful "Hip Chops" and bonus track "Jive Elephant" stick in my mind the most but this is solid gold from beginning to end. Even if you're just a moderate Kirk fan, do yourself a favor and seek this out.