Sunday, November 4, 2018

Roland Kirk - 1969 - Left & Right

Roland Kirk
Left & Right

01. Black Mystery Has Been Revealed
02. Expansions
03. Lady's Blues
04. IX Love
05. Hot Cha
06. Quintessence
07. I Waited For You
08. A Flower Is A Lovesome Thing

Bass – Vernon Martin
Bassoon – Daniel Jones
Drums – Jimmy Hopps
Harp – Alice Coltrane
Horns, Narrator, Piano, Saxophone, Flute, Celesta – Roland Kirk
Percussion – Gerald Brown, Warren Smith
Piano – Ron Burton
Saxophone – Pepper Adams
Trombone – Benny Powell, Dick Griffin
Trumpet – Richard Williams

The 20 minute "Expansions" is like a jazz history lesson wrapped up into one tight little package. Listening to it - and to this album as a whole - leaves little doubt in my mind that Kirk could do just about anything, jazz-wise. Like a lot of Kirk records he's showing off an encyclopedic knowledge of jazz and an ability to use it for his own means rather than to create some rote reproduction. Note that in "Expansions" Kirk and Ron Burton (piano) (plus other folks playing instruments that stand out less) offer up blues, bebop, stride piano, swing, and of course Kirk's own unique brand of the music all strung into something too fluid to be called a suite, as though it were differing pieces grafted together, but feeling more like stream of consciousness writing while retaining the feel of moving with a purpose and never rambling. But that's not all this offers. Side two, or the second half as it was known in the CD age, offers a Kirk-with-strings session where Rahsaan finds the perfect balance between sentiment and surrealism - a flute excursion where his tone, without going overboard and destroying the gentle beauty of the number, cuts through the strings like a serrated knife; a gorgeous dedication to Billie Holiday in "Lady's Blues"; elsewhere a lovely take on "A Flower Is A Lovesome Thing" where you'd never doubt his passion and also never mistake him for Johnny Hodges; etc. Main horn plus strings is rarely a recipe for music I love, but Kirk, as always, does things like nobody else and makes it work beautifully. A really fine one overall.

The title of this album, Left and Right, no doubt refers to the sides of Rahsaan Roland Kirk's brain, which were both heavily taxed in the composing, arranging, conducting, and playing of this recording. For starters, the band is huge -- 17 players plus a 16-piece string section, all of it arranged and conducted by Kirk, a blind man. None of this would matter a damn if this weren't such a badass platter. Along with Kirk's usual crew of Ron Burton, Julius Watkins, Dick Griffin, Jimmy Hopps, and Gerald Brown, there are luminaries in the crowd including Alice Coltrane on harp, Pepper Adams on baritone saxophone, and no less than Roy Haynes helping out on the skins. What it all means is this: The man who surprised and outraged everybody on the scene -- as well as blew most away -- was at it again here in "Expansions," his wildly ambitious and swinging post-Coltrane suite, which has "Black Mystery Has Been Revealed" as its prelude. While there are other tracks on this record, this suite is its centerpiece and masterpiece -- despite killer readings of Billy Strayhorn's "A Flower Is a Lovesome Thing" and "Quintessence." "Expansions" has Kirk putting his entire harmonic range on display, and all of the timbral extensions he used in his own playing are charted for a string section to articulate. There are subtleties, of course, which come off as merely tonal variations in extant harmony with the other instruments, but when they are juxtaposed against a portrayal of the entire history of jazz -- from Jelly Roll Morton to the present day -- then they become something else: the storytellers, the timbres, and the chromatic extensions that point in the right direction and get listeners to stop in the right places. This is an extreme for Rahsaan -- extremely brilliant and thoroughly accessible.

Roland Kirk - 1968 - The Inflated Tear

Roland Kirk
The Inflated Tear

01. The Black And Crazy Blues 5:59
02. A Laugh For Rory 2:47
03. Many Blessings 4:36
04. Fingers In The Wind 5:07
05. The Inflated Tear 4:46
06. The Creole Love Call 3:45
07. A Handful Of Fives 2:35
08. Fly By Night 4:09
09. Lovellevelliloqui 3:59

Bass – Steve Novosel
Drums – Jimmy Hopps
Piano – Ron Burton
Tenor Saxophone, Saxophone, Clarinet, Flute, Whistle, English Horn – Roland Kirk

The debut recording by Roland Kirk (this was still pre-Rahsaan) on Atlantic Records, the same label that gave us Blacknuss and Volunteered Slavery, is not the blowing fest one might expect upon hearing it for the first time. In fact, producer Joel Dorn and label boss Neshui Ertegun weren't prepared for it either. Kirk had come to Atlantic from Emarcy after recording his swan song for them, the gorgeous Now Please Don't You Cry, Beautiful Edith, in April. In November Kirk decided to take his quartet of pianist Ron Burton, bassist Steve Novosel, and drummer Jimmy Hopps and lead them through a deeply introspective, slightly melancholy program based in the blues and in the groove traditions of the mid-'60s. Kirk himself used the flutes, the strich, the Manzello, whistle, clarinet, saxophones, and more -- the very instruments that had created his individual sound, especially when some of them were played together, and the very things that jazz critics (some of whom later grew to love him) castigated him for. Well, after hearing the restrained and elegantly layered "Black and Crazy Blues," the stunning rendered "Creole Love Call," the knife-deep soul in "The Inflated Tear," and the twisting in the wind lyricism of "Fly by Night," they were convinced -- and rightfully so. Roland Kirk won over the masses with this one too, selling over 10,000 copies in the first year. This is Roland Kirk at his most poised and visionary; his reading of jazz harmony and fickle sonances are nearly without peer. And only Mingus understood Ellington in the way Kirk did. That evidence is here also. If you are looking for a place to start with Kirk, this is it.

Rahsan Roland Kirk and his music exist in a universe all their own, sure he may use some of the same tonalities and rhythms as fellow jazz and RnB musicians, and he can take things off the deep end at will much like his fellows in the avant-garde, but no one else sounds like Kirk. There is an unpretentious directness to Roland’s music, a raw street level vibe that connects to the earliest days of New Orleans. You get the feeling that if Roland had not had a recording contract, he would have been out on some street corner playing the same music. “The Inflated Tear” is a great record, but don’t expect a lot of fireworks, by Kirk standards “Tear” is fairly laid back, but its not the least bit commercial, nor does Kirk hold back on his trademark personality and creativity.

Despite the uniqueness of Kirk’s music, some parallels to other artists can be drawn. His sometimes blunt approach can recall Sun Ra and Monk, his loose sound and massive tone on the tenor may remind some of John Gilmore and his ability to mix many eras of jazz into one musical approach recalls Mingus and Elllington. All of that is here on “Inflated Tear”, but this album is also a bit mellowed with a laid back 60s beatnik vibe, somewhere along the lines of early Herbie Mann and Eddie Harris.

The album opens with “The Black and Crazy Blues”, a New Orleans dirge with modern elements which is followed by “A Laugh for Rory”, a fun upbeat cool jazz number on the flute(s). Some consider Kirk’s ability to play more than one instrument at a time to be a gimmick, but on “Rory”, and elsewhere on this album, he shows that his ability to harmonize the melody with simultaneous nose flute and concert flute is far more than a gimmick and adds some very interesting unique dimensions to his arrangements. The following tune, “Many Blessings”, contains some explosive tenor work and side one closes with the pretty flute ballad, “Fingers in the Wind”.

Side two opens with the album’s title track. This piece is more like a musical/theatrical re-telling of how a nurse accidentally blinded Kirk for life at the age of two. This one is quite different from the rest of the album and features primitive sounds on three horns at once. Despite the heavy subject matter, this is hardly indulgent and adds to that singularity that is Rahsaan. After this opening, Duke‘s “The Creole Love Call” follows and Kirk’s ability to harmonize on two horns works to good advantage as he uses Ellington’s transparent framework to include sounds of centuries past as well as the future. This one also features another strong, but short ride on the tenor. The album closes out with three bluesy hard bop numbers that show Kirk and his band working with short concise forms, no cliche gratuitous solos, everything compact and to the point with just enough solo to fit the tune. The closer, Lovellevelliloqui", has one of Kirk's best and quirkiest tenor solos on the album.

This is a great album, maybe not as far out as some of Kirk’s records, but possibly that makes this one a good first buy for somebody wanting to check out his music.

Roland Kirk - 1967 - Now Please Don't You Cry, Beautiful Edith

Roland Kirk
Now Please Don't You Cry, Beautiful Edith

01. Blue Rol 5:55
02. Alfie 2:48
03. Why Don't They Know 2:52
04. Silverlization 4:53
05. Fallout 2:58
06. Now Please Don't You Cry, Beautiful Edith 4:18
07. Stompin' Grounds 4:45
08. It's A Grand Night For Swinging 3:07

Bass – Ronnie Boykins
Drums – Grady Tate
Piano – Lonnie Liston Smith

Now Please Don’t You Cry, Beautiful Edith is sandwiched between Roland Kirk's two most popular recordings Rip, Rig and Panic (1965) and The Inflated Tear (1968) in his discography and is often overlooked as a result, and although not as audacious as those two albums it should not suffer by comparison. Kirk’s playing is, as usual, of the highest standard and full of stylistic pirouettes whether playing one (or all) of his reed instruments or his flute, and the tunes are as strong and varied as you would expect on a Roland Kirk release. Opening with the gut-bucket blues of ‘Blue Rol’ which features a prime example of circular-breathing on his solo, followed by an exquisite version of ‘Alfie’ wherein time obediently stands still, we are lead through a shape-shifting programme that should have served to disprove his critics, so authoritative and self-assured is his performance throughout. The title track is as heartfelt and tender a lament as Kirk would ever commit to tape, with a wistful piano solo by Lonnie Liston Smith that is both earnest and unguarded, while ‘Stompin’Grounds’ has a barnstorming multi-horn solo by Kirk that demonstrates more of his fearless inventiveness, a quality that properly defines his entire recording and performing career.

Roland Kirk - 1967 - Here Comes The Whistleman

Roland Kirk
Here Comes The Whistleman

01. Roots 4:09
02. Here Comes The Whistleman 4:53
03. I Wished On The Moon 4:48
04. Making Love After Hours 4:20
05. Yesterdays 3:54
06. Aluminum Baby 6:06
07. Step Right Up 4:41

Alto Saxophone – Roland Kirk (tracks: B4)
Bass – Major Holley (tracks: A1, A2, A3, B1, B2, B3, B4)
Drums – Charles Crosby (tracks: A1, A2, A3, B1, B2, B3, B4)
Flute – Roland Kirk (tracks: B2)
Flute [Nose Flute] – Roland Kirk (tracks: A2)
Piano – Jackie Byard (tracks: A1, A3, B3), Lonnie Smith (tracks: A2, B1, B2, B4)
Saxophone [Manzello] – Roland Kirk (tracks: B1)
Saxophone [Stritch] – Roland Kirk (tracks: B1)
Tenor Saxophone – Roland Kirk (tracks: A1, A2, A3, B1)

Here Comes the Whistleman showcases Rahsaan Roland Kirk in 1967 with a fine band, live in front of a host of invited guests at Atlantic Studios in New York. His band for the occasion is stellar: Jacki Byard or Lonnie Smith on piano, Major Holley on bass, Lonnie Smith on piano, and Charles Crosby on drums. This is the hard, jump blues and deep R&B Roland Kirk band, and from the git, on "Roots," they show why. Kirk comes screaming out of the gate following a double time I-IV-V progression, with Holley punching the accents along the bottom and Byard shoving the hard tight chords up against Kirk's three-horn lead. The extended harmony Kirk plays -- though the melody line is a bar walking honk -- is extreme, full of piss and vinegar. On the title track, along with the artist's requisite, and genuinely good, humor, Kirk breaks out the whistles on top of the horn for a blues stomp with Smith taking over the piano chores. Smith plays a two chord vamp, changing the accent before he beings to break it open into a blues with skittering fills and turnarounds while Kirk blows circularly for 12 and 14 bars at a time. Byard returns for a tender and stirring duet rendition of "I Wished on the Moon," with his own glorious rich lyricism. And here is where Kirk displays the true measure of his ability as a saxophonist. Turning the ballad inside out, every which way without overstating the notes. Here, Ben Webster meets Coleman Hawkins in pure lyric ecstasy. The set officially ends with the wailing flute and sax jam "Aluminum Baby," (both courtesy of the irrepressible Kirk) and the bizarre ride of "Step Right Up" where Kirk sings scat in a dialect that sounds like Pop-eye. Now that's where the LP version ended, but the Label M CD reissue tags on, without credits anywhere two absolutely essential scorchers with what seems to be Byard on piano and an over-the-top bass blowout from Holley. Kirk plays saxophones on both, being his own horn section. This makes an already satisfying date an essential one. Given these additions, this might arguably be the place to start for an interested but underexposed listener who wants to experience how dazzlingly original Kirk was.

The Jazz Corps - 1966 - The Jazz Corps Featuring Roland Kirk

The Jazz Corps 
The Jazz Corps Featuring Roland Kirk

01. Harplyness [4:44]
02. Serenity [3:25]
03. Peru-T [4:57]
04. Liberation [4:24]
05. Chalan Pago [3:32]
06. Le Blessing [8:13]
07. Meanwhile [8:30]
08. Another Plum [5:17]

Tommy Peltier-cor, flg
Roland Kirk-tsx, f, bsx, stritch
Fred Rodriguez-tsx, asx, f
Lynn Blessing-vbs
Bill Plummer-b
Maurice Miller-d

October 11-12, 1966
Pacific Jazz Studios
Hollywood, CA

Even though The Jazz Corps' recording legacy was a one shot deal, they will be remembered by serious Rahsaan Roland Kirk collectors for years to come.  The Jazz Corps knows its stuff and Kirk provides that extra little touch to make things spicy enough.  The drummer of the group, Maurice Miller, is quite good.  "Chalan Pago" features Kirk in a flute solo that is easily worth the price of the disk: an essential, classic Kirk moment.  What I really found most interesting was hearing Kirk play the baritone saxophone.  That's not something that he played very much.  If you see this at a used record store then grab it for sure.

Likable like most of Kirk's albums from the early 60s. 
 However, less adventurous than others despite having an entire Jazz Corps behind him!  Good arrangements and the vibes (the instrument, not the mood) add a distinctive flavour.  There is also an interesting amount of Latin derived material, and of course, great sax and flute from the one and only - Roland Kirk.  I acquired this one about fifteen years ago for cheap when a record store was closing down and now it is a permanent, if not minor, part of my collection

I must say, it absolutely blew me away. The compositions (all by Tommy Peltier) each have their own distinct attitudes, and they're all awesome. Plus, it features Roland Kirk playing bari sax on half the album, which there are few recorded examples of, and the tracks on this album are by far the best. His bari playing is out of this world. On one track he sounds like I imagine Gerry Mulligan would if he gained about 100 pounds, in terms of sound, you know what I mean? It's soft and reserved, yet there's so much depth and warmth to his tone. On other tracks, he sounds like a bulldozer, crazy multiphonics and everything going. It also has some of his best flute playing I've ever heard, including a beautiful flute duet with Freddy Rodriguez. Speaking of Freddy Rodriguez, on tenor, he's a monster! I'd never heard him before...did he ever get any recognition? - by Shade of Blue,

Likable like most of Kirk's albums from the early 60s.  However, less adventurous than others despite having an entire Jazz Corps behind him!  Good arrangements and the vibes (the instrument, not the mood) add a distinctive flavour.  There is also an interesting amount of Latin derived material, and of course, great sax and flute from the one and only - Roland Kirk.  I acquired this one about fifteen years ago for cheap when a record store was closing down and now it is a permanent, if not minor, part of my collection. Even though The Jazz Corps' recording legacy was a one shot deal, they will be remembered by serious Rahsaan Roland Kirk collectors for years to come.  The Jazz Corps knows its stuff and Kirk provides that extra little touch to make things spicy enough.  The drummer of the group, Maurice Miller, is quite good.  "Chalan Pago" features Kirk in a flute solo that is easily worth the price of the disk: an essential, classic Kirk moment.  What I really found most interesting was hearing Kirk play the baritone saxophone.  That's not something that he played very much.  If you see this at a used record store then grab it for sure. 

Roland Kirk - 1965 - Slightly Latin

Roland Kirk
Slightly Latin

01. Walk On By 2:25
02. Raouf 3:02
03. It's All In The Game 5:17
04. Juarez 5:33
05. Shaky Money 1:48
06. Nothing But The Truth 3:02
07. Safari 4:25
08. And I Love Her 3:02
09. Ebrauqs 8:20
10. The Shadow Of Your Smile (Love Theme From The Sandpiper) 3:17

Baritone Saxophone, Tenor Saxophone, Saxophone [Manzello, Strich] – Roland Kirk
Bass – Edward Mathias
Congas – Montego Joe
Drums – Gerald Brown
Flugelhorn – Martin Banks
Percussion – Manuel Ramos
Piano, Keyboards [Celeste] – Horace Parlan
Trombone, Harp [Nagoya Harp], Arranged By – Garnett Brown
Trumpet – Virgil Jones

The problem, I assume, with Rahsaan Roland Kirk’s music, and more specifically, why a lot of modern day jazz listeners haven’t gotten around to him, is that he hasn’t released a magnum opus by way of Black Saint and the Sinner Lady or Kind of Blue/Bitches Brew or A Love Supreme or The Shape of Jazz to Come or Saxophone Colossus. Instead, Kirk steamrolled his way from inception to his untimely death in the late 70s with very few mis-steps; it’s easier to hear one album than it is to hear, say, ten. (Of course, Jaki Byard – who played with Kirk, has released a magnum opus of his own in The Jaki Byard Experience that still toils in relative obscurity despite decades, so maybe it has nothing to do with the number of great albums one releases?)

For the uninitiated, Rahsaan Roland Kirk has a style that’s as distinct as any of the aforementioned Mingus or Davis or Coltrane or Coleman or Rollins; this was a man who would take to the stage with several instruments daggling around his neck, who would sing in the general direction of his flute to produce two different sounds simultaneously, who would release a triple LP for the sake of releasing a triple LP (outdoing Kamasi Washington by four decades and half the time). The flip-side is that critics often wrote his music off as gimmicks or praised it when it was gimmick-free. Quoting Giddins for the billionth time, “To say such an artist that he had no ear for the gimmick is like saying that Art Tatum never played florid runs and John Coltrane never squealed. What counts is what they did with the gimmicks, the runs, the squeals.” 

Slightly Latin, released after one of his greatest albums (Rip, Rig and Panic), was probably derided with the gimmick criticism (but this time coupled with commercialism; what is Blacknuss) – and it’s not hard to see why. The opening track, a 2-minute cover of Dionne Warwick’s best song, begins with a riotous theme before Kirk starts yelling “WALK IT!” Anyone familiar with the source material, or who came here looking for Latin-inspired jazz, is probably itching to hit the skip button. (The best part: when “Walk On By”’s immortal melody finally appears, Kirk’s still yelling, this time aroused into “OH YES!”’s and “MM-HMM!”’s when everything collapses into the climax; maybe enjoying himself too much.) Speaking of, I better make this public service announcement now: this record has nothing to do with Latin jazz! Well, aside from “Juarez,” which does have its percussion bounce and peppy theme indebted to the South. 

Couple the false start with the loud vocals throughout “Raouf” and “Nothing But the Truth,” or how “Shaky Money” has Kirk punishing his saxophones into sounding like bagpipes, or how “Safari” incorporates what sounds like the bandmembers going “woo” in the background, or the existence of the Beatles cover of A Hard Day’s Night’s “And I Love Her”, or what sounds like a baby wailing during one of the many sections of “Ebrauqs” and you can see where the gimmick criticism comes from. (Beatles covers are almost inherently gimmicky.) But again: it’s not the mere fact that Kirk speaks in gimmicks, but what he does with them, and also, what other languages he speaks. 

Kirk harmonizes with the female vocals throughout “Raouf” to create one of the album’s catchiest themes, and his solos on that song are Coltrane-inspired: blistery; worthy of your attention. Elsewhere, “Safari” is one of the album’s best songs in its journey from jungle to outer space; the cacophony of sound is only bolstered by the bandmembers vocally tripping out. And the Beatles cover is short and sweet if ultimately inconsequential, driven by congas and providing some respite before “Ebrauqs.” Elsewhere, “It’s All in the Game” begins with Kirk finally settling down into a calm, and yearning melody over what sounds like a music box; the twinkling sounds eventually drop out and Kirk smoothly transitions into the full band: Edward Mathias plays a delightful bass here, and Horace Parlan provides a prickly solo on piano. 

Roland Kirk - 1965 - Rip, Rig & Panic

The Roland Kirk Quartet Featuring Elvin Jones 
Rip, Rig & Panic

01. No Tonic Pres 4:30
02. Once In A While 3:55
03. From Bechet, Byas And Fats 7:25
04. Mystical Dream 2:35
05. Rip, Rig And Panic 6:58
06. Black Diamond 5:20
07. Slippery, Hippery, Flippery 4:50

Bass – Richard Davis
Drums – Elvin Jones
Piano – Jaki Byard
Tenor Saxophone, Saxophone [Manzello, Stritch], Castanets, Siren – Roland Kirk

Recorded January 13, 1965 at Rudy Van Gelder Studios

Despite its brevity, Rip, Rig, and Panic may be pre-Rahsaan Roland Kirk's greatest outing. Recorded in 1965 at Rudy Van Gelder's studio in New Jersey, Kirk is teamed with the most awesome rhythm section he ever recorded with: drummer Elvin Jones, pianist Jaki Byard, and bassist Richard Davis. Clocking in at a mere 36 minutes, Kirk and his quartet moved through a series of musicological changes that defined him as an artist at the time. Five of the seven compositions are his, and reach through each of the phases that Kirk was interested in integrating into his compositional and improvisational voice. First there is the elegant modal music of "No Tonic Press," with its non-linear mathematic groove maintained with verve by Jones in all the knotty spots. Then there is the ethereal Middle-Eastern harmony juxtaposed against the changes in "Once in a While" by Bennie Green. But the whole thing comes together by the third tune, when Kirk sifts his hearing of New Orleans music into gear with "From Bechet, Byas, and Fats." Using his loopy manzello to approximate the soprano saxophone, Kirk and Byard trade fours on some odd open-D modal theme before shifting into the music of Bechet's time and coming out on tenor with direct quotes from the Don Byas book, with Byard and Davis turning around on a blues motif as Jones double times with a sheet of rim shots. Through the rest, the set moves consistently more outside, with Kirk flipping instruments and Jones and Davis turning the rhythmic patterns around on Byard, who takes it all in stride and shifts the harmonic levels to Kirk's intensity on the title track and "Mystical Dream." The set ends with the bluesy, somnambulant groove of "Slippery, Hippery, and Flippery." There's a paranoid opening with Jones running all over the kit, Byard slipping up and down the board, and Kirk making siren sounds before entering his bluesy post-bop nightmare of a jam that winds itself out over studio distortion, Kirk's noises, and a killer tenor solo that caps everything on the album. Positively smashing.

Roland Kirk - 1965 - I Talk To The Spirits

Roland Kirk
I Talk To The Spirits

01. Serenade To Cuckoo 4:30
02. Medley 4:38
a. We'll Be Together Again
b. People From "Funny Girl"
03. A Quote From Clifford Brown 4:21
04. Trees 6:15
05. Fugue'n And Alludin' 0:40
06. The Business Ain't Nothin' But The Blues 4:57
07. I Talk With The Spirits 3:55
08. Ruined Castles 1:13
09. Django 4:57
10. My Ship From "Lady In The Dark" 5:00

Bass – Michael Fleming
Drums – Walter Perkins
Flute – Roland Kirk
Piano – Horace Parlan
Vibraphone – Bobby Moses
Vocals – C.J. Albert

Recorded September 16 and 17, 1964 at Nola Studios, New York City

Multi-instrumentalist Roland Kirk leaves the stritch, manzello and other exotic instruments at home for this all-flute outing from his pre-"Rahsaan" days. Consisting mostly of originals, with a couple of show tunes and a swinging take on John Lewis' "Django" thrown in, I Talk to the Spirits provides the best sampling of Kirk's unique flute style. He hums along with himself as he plays, inserts pieces of lyrics when the mood hits, finds overtones and multi-part harmonies as he blows madly through the upper register and sails sweetly through the lower. Included here is the original version of "Serenade to a Cuckoo," a song later taken to rock audiences with its inclusion on the first Jethro Tull album. (In fact, for the Tull fan who wants to hear where Ian Anderson borrowed his style, I Talk to the Spirits is the place to go.) The playing on this outing is uniformly excellent, with Kirk ranging from his trademark up-tempo overblowing on "A Quote from Clifford Brown" to bluesy growling on "The Business Ain't Nothing But the Blues" to placid beauty on the ballad "Trees." He guides Kurt Weill's "My Ship" on a five-minute voyage through calm seas and turbulent double-timed storms. Kirk's sense of whimsy and musical fun is evident throughout.

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.

Roland Kirk - 1964 - Kirk In Copenhagen

Roland Kirk
Kirk In Copenhagen

01. Narrow Bolero 5:22
02. Mingus-Griff Song 8:07
03. The Monkey Thing 5:49
04. Mood Indigo 7:16
05. Cabin In The Sky 7:45
06. On The Corner Of King And Scott Streets 4:14

Bass – Don Moore, Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen
Drums – J.C. Moses
Harmonica – Big Skol
Piano – Tete Montoliu
Tenor Saxophone, Saxello [Manzello], Saxophone [Stritch], Flute, Siren – Roland Kirk

In addition to being Roland Kirk's first live long-player, the breakthrough Kirk in Copenhagen was his fifth in a little over two years during his particularly prolific relationship with Mercury Records. On this 1964 release, Kirk heads up a truly integrated quintet featuring the multi-reedsmith (tenor sax, flute, manzello, strich, nose flute, and siren) as well as Tete Montoliu (piano) from Spain, Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen (bass) from Denmark, and a pair of Yanks in Don Moore (bass) and J.C. Moses (drums). The dementedly humorous blues workout on "The Monkey Thing" features a character by the name of Big Skol (mouth harp) -- whose true identity is none other than Sonny Boy Williamson. It is presumed that contractual or other potentially litigious circumstances prevented the blues legend from being properly credited at the time of this LP's initial release. Although somewhat ragtag in derivation, the combo quickly finds its sonic niche. The opener, "Narrow Bolero," audibly suffers from a rhythmically disoriented Moses, whose sloppy skins and decidedly uneven timing are brutally evident on occasion. Thankfully, he quickly smartens up and his contributions -- especially to "Cabin in the Sky" -- are both engaging and active in their solidification of the rhythm section. Nowhere is Moses more in control than the set's brilliant conclusion, "On the Corner of King and Scott Streets." The band commences and concludes with an open throttle as it blazes through the high-velocity and densely intricate jam, the bottom of which falls out, providing Kirk plenty of space to improvise wildly, utilizing his clever wit and immensely expressive musicality. The ten-CD Rahsaan: The Complete Mercury Recordings of Roland Kirk box set from 1990 embellishes the half-dozen performances included on this album with an additional ten sides. Ultimately, this yields over an hour and 45 minutes of primal live Kirk, and is considered by many enthusiasts as worthy of the nominal investment needed to acquire the otherwise essential and definitively comprehensive compilation. Kirk in Copenhagen was reissued on CD as part of Verve's classic reissue program in a limited edition with beautifully remastered sound in a digipack replica of the original LP sleeve. 

CD release in 2005:

Roland Kirk Quartet with Tete Montoliu
Copenhagen Concert

101. Narrow Bolero 8:24
102. My Heart Stood Still 5:50
103. No Title No. 1 5:56
104. Mood Indigo 7:14
105. Cabin In The Sky 7:47
106. On The Corner Of King And Scott Streets 4:41
107. Untitled Blues 6:16
108. The Monkey Thing 5:55
109. Will You Still Be Mine 8:40
110. One For My Baby 3:54
111. We'll Be Together Again 5:21
112. Mingus-Griff Song 8:03

201. Mood Indigo 7:28
202. Medley Rock-A-Bye Baby/Nearness Of You/No Title No. 3 12:35
203. Half A Triple 4:54
204. Narrow Bolero 6:46
205. A Stritch In Time 7:08
206. Au Privave 14:37

There are many wonderful ways to get acquainted or stay in touch with the spirit of Rahsaan Roland Kirk. For a truly mind-altering and life-changing listening experience, try this Lone Hill Jazz double-CD reissue of Kirk's amazing performances recorded live at the Club Montmartre in Copenhagen on October 24 and 25, 1963. (Present in the audience on the second night was John Coltrane, who was resting his chops after playing the Tivolis Koncertsal.) Earlier that year, Kirk was working out of Chicago when a promoter from Sweden heard him and suggested a Scandinavian tour. By late September Kirk was in London playing to packed houses at Ronnie Scott's and the Marquee Club. The tour then expanded as Kirk roared through Italy, France, Belgium, Germany and Holland in addition to Sweden and Denmark. Fortunately, Quincy Jones arranged for the Copenhagen Concert to be recorded, preserving for posterity the magical interplay between this joyously driven multi-instrumental Ohioan and the Barcelona-born pianist Tete Montoliu, bassists Don Moore and Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen, and drummer J.C. Moses, who by the end of the decade would serve as the house drummer at Café Montmartre. Two tracks feature special guest blues harmonica legend Sonny Boy Williamson, identified on most previous issues only as 'Big Skol'. The gutsy combination of Kirk and Williamson on "Untitled Blues" and "The Monkey Thing" is a spicy treat that meshes nicely with Williamson's other European and British adventures in the company of Memphis Slim, Eric Clapton, the Yardbirds, and Eric Burdon & the Animals. According to what Kirk says by way of introduction, he and Sonny Boy Williamson had previously gigged together in Milwaukee, which makes their Danish rendezvous somewhat of a reunion jam. Every aspect of Kirk's artistry is documented on the Copenhagen recordings -- gorgeous ballads, gleefully reconstituted standards and fiery originals. Essential features are his supreme one-man three-sax and flute adaptation of "Mood Indigo," a bouncing medley that opens with a rousing "Rock-A-Bye Baby" and Kirk's blustery, screaming over-the-top flute solo during "On the Corner of King and Scott Streets." This edition also contains two exciting bonus tracks: a sunny seven-minute version of "A Stritch in Time" recorded live at the 1962 Newport Jazz Festival, and a rare recording of a nearly 15-minute jam on Charlie Parker's "Au Privave," tape recorded by an enterprising amateur at a gig in Berlin on September 24, 1964. In addition to Tete Montoliu, bassist Jimmy Woode, and drummer Kenny Clarke, this steamy blowout features alto saxophonist Sonny Stitt. Those who really love their jazz will want to absorb this track in all its muddy-sounding "bootleg" splendor, as this is the only known recording of Sonny Stitt and Rahsaan Roland Kirk performing together. Don't miss it.

Roland Kirk - 1963 - The Roland Kirk Quartet Meets the Benny Golson Orchestra

The Roland Kirk Quartet 
Meets the Benny Golson Orchestra

01. Ecclusiastics
02. By Myself
03. Roland Speaks
04. A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square
05. Variations on a Theme by Hindemith
06. I've Got Your Number
07. Between the Fourth and the Fifth Step
08. April Morning
09. Get in the Basement
10. Abstract Improvisation

The Roland Kirk Quartet
Roland Kirk - tenor saxophone, manzello, stritch, flute, siren
Harold Mabern - piano (tracks 1-9)
Abdullah Rafik - bass (tracks 6-9)
Sonny Brown - drums (tracks 6-9)

The Benny Golson Orchestra (tracks 1-5)
Benny Golson - conductor, arranger
Richard Williams, Virgil Jones - trumpet
Charles Greenlee, Tom McIntosh - trombone
Don Butterfield - tuba
Richard Davis - bass
Albert Heath - drums

Recorded on June 11, 1963 (1-5) and June 12, 1963 (6-10), New York

Roland Kirk - 1963 - Reeds And Deeds

Roland Kirk
Reeds And Deeds

01. Reeds & Deeds 5:16
02. Hay Ro 2:59
03. This Is Always 4:17
04. Song Of The Countrymen 6:54
05. Limbo Boat 2:52
06. Lonesome August Child 4:33
07. Land Of Peace 5:49
08. Waltz Of The Friends 4:37

Bass – Rafik Abdullah (tracks: A2, B1 to B4), Richard Davis (2) (tracks: A1,A3,A4)
Drums – Walter Perkins
Piano – Harold Mabern
Tenor Saxophone, Saxello [Manzello], Flute, Alto Saxophone, Siren – Roland Kirk
Trombone – Charles Greenlee (tracks: A2, B1 to B4), Tom McIntosh (tracks: A1,A3,A4)
Trumpet – Virgil Jones

Recorded February 25 and 26, 1963, in New York.

A hauntingly beautiful album from the great Roland Kirk – and a perfect illustration of why his music means so much to us! The set sparkles with warmth and imagination right from the start – a subtle balance between swing, soul, and searching reedwork from the leader – bold on tenor, but also completely creative on flute, stritch, manzello, and even siren too. Benny Golson adds in a bit of tenor, and also helps with the arrangements – and the record also features key contributions from other fresh talents of the 60s – including Charles Greenlee and Tom McIntosh on trombones, Virgil Jones on trumpet, Harold Mabern on piano, Richard Davis on bass, and Walter Perkins on drums – the last of whom really seems to get the right sort of rhythms for Kirk's playful swing. The whole thing's wonderful!

Roland Kirk - 1962 - Domino

Roland Kirk

01. Domino 3:10
02. Meeting On Termini's Corner 3:37
03. Time 3:07
04. Lament 3:26
05. A Stritch In Time 5:02
06. 3-In-1 Without The Oil 2:20
07. Get Out Of Town From "Leave It To Me" 4:43
08. Rolando 3:40
09. I Believe In You 4:20
10. E.D. 2:21

Bass – Vernon Martin
Drums – Henry Duncan (tracks: A1 to B1), Roy Haynes (tracks: B2 to B5)
Piano – Andrew Hill (tracks: A1 to B1), Wynton Kelly (tracks: B2 to B5)
Tenor Saxophone, Saxophone, Flute, Nose Flute, Whistle – Roland Kirk

The expanding musical universe of Rahsaan Roland Kirk continues its orbit on Domino. While always true to his exceptional talents, Kirk's previous efforts are somewhat derivative when compared to his later and more aggressive sound. On Domino, the genesis of his more assertive presence is thoroughly evident. Additionally, this disc features several impressive originals, as well as the most distinctly branded cover tunes to date, including the intense bop of the title track. As evidenced throughout the album, Kirk's compositions are becoming denser and more involved. "Meeting on Termini's Corner" -- an ode to the legendary Five Spot club -- mimics the off-kilter rhythms of Thelonious Monk. The tenor sax solo that rises through his multi-instrumentation is stunning. The contrast between the lilting flute work, which bookends "Domino," and the stirring tenor sax solo at the center is yet again indicative of the boundaries Kirk would be approaching. However, it's the Latin-tinged "Rolando" that might best display the unmistakably singular sound that comes from the stritch -- a Kirk modified second generation B flat soprano sax -- and the tenor sax, when performed simultaneously. The warmth and clarity are at once unique and hypnotic. Another prime example of the multiplicity in Kirk's performance styles can be heard on "I Believe in You." The juxtaposition of the husky tenor with the spry manzello provides a false sense of balance as Kirk delays combining the two until the final chorus. This produces a surprising and memorable effect, as Kirk's arrangement does not anticipate the finale. The 2000 CD reissue contains both recording dates for the original album as well as a previously undocumented session that includes Herbie Hancock(piano), Roy Haynes (drums), and Vernon Martin (bass). Additionally, Domino was the first album to feature Kirk's live band of Haynes, Andrew Hill (celeste/piano), and Henry Duncan (percussion) on several tracks.

Kirk’s arsenal includes two unusual instruments, the manzello (sort of like a soprano sax) and the stritch (like a mellow alto), in addition to tenor, flute, and the occasional siren whistle, usually to introduce a piano solo. His simultaneous two- and three-horn work led some to dismiss him as a gimmick player, which was absurd, for what’s astonishing about the technique is its sheer musicality in Kirk’s hands. Need to ratchet up the intensity over a pedal point or during a solo? Add another horn or two and you’ve got an instant one-man shout chorus. (Check out his faster-than-usual reading of J.J. Johnson’s "Lament" for a good example of this.) And mind you, this is not mere noisemaking — his note choices, whether unisons or two- and three-part harmonies, make perfect sense.

Indeed, for a musician often thought of as incurably odd and left-of-center, Kirk’s rootedness in tradition couldn’t be clearer on Domino. On tenor he sounds not unlike Sonny Rollins; his flute work surely influenced Thomas Chapin. On the fast minor blues "Rolando" he plays a stritch solo full of exemplary post-bop lines. "E.D.," the last of the original 10 tracks, is a furiously fast reworking of "Tea for Two." At least at this stage, Kirk’s playing was far more inside than Ornette Coleman’s, for instance.

Roland Kirk - 1962 - We Free Kings

Roland Kirk
We Free Kings

01. Three For The Festival 3:05
02. Moon Song 4:17
03. A Sack Full Of Soul 4:35
04. The Haunted Melody 3:36
05. Blues For Alice 4:04
06. We Free Kings 4:45
07. You Dit It, You Did It 2:24
08. Some Kind Of Love 6:06
09. My Delight 4:26

Bass – Art Davis (tracks: A3, A4, A5, B4), Wendell Marshall (tracks: A1, A2, B1, B2, B3)
Drums – Charlie Persip
Piano – Hank Jones (tracks: A1, A2, B1, B2, B3), Richard Wyands (tracks: A3, A4, A5, B4)
Tenor Saxophone, Manzello, Stritch, Flute – Roland Kirk

This session was recorded monaurally and stereophonically at Nola Penthouse Studios in New York City, with Tommy Nola at the controls and Jack Tracy supervising. Rhythm section microphones used were a Neuman U 48 on piano, RCA 44 on the bass, and a Telefunken U 47 on drums, A Neuman KM 54 was used on Roland Kirk's horns, with an Electro Voice 667 suspended above it at forehead level to pick up his flute. The entire session was recorded at 15 inches per second on Ampez tape recorders.

We Free Kings, Roland Kirk's third long-player, is among the most consistent of his early efforts. The assembled quartet provides an ample balance of bop and soul compliments to Kirk's decidedly individual polyphonic performance style. His inimitable writing and arranging techniques develop into some great originals, as well as personalize the chosen cover tunes. With a nod to the contemporary performance style of John Coltrane, as well as a measure of his influences -- most notably Clifford Brown and Sidney Bechet -- Kirk maneuvers into and out of some inspiring situations. His decidedly 'Trane-esque solos on "My Delight" are supported with a high degree of flexibility by one-time Charles Mingus' pianist Richard Wyands and Dizzy Gillespie percussionist Charlie Persip. The album's title track is a Kirk original, based on the melody of the Christmas hymn "We Three Kings." Incorporating recognizable melodies into Kirk's oft times unorthodox musical settings would prove to be a motif throughout his career. An example is the highly touted cover of Charlie Parker's "Blues for Alice." This is an ideal avenue for the quartet to explore one of Kirk's specialties -- the blues. The almost irreverent manner in which he fuses blues and soul music into the otherwise bop-driven arrangements is striking. "A Sack Full of Soul" is a funky number with a walking-blues backbeat that perfectly supports Kirk's swinging solos. The stop time syncopation is reminiscent of Ray Charles' "What'd I Say." The 1987 CD version also includes an alternate take of "Blues for Alice." One additional track -- a cover of the Frank Loesser standard "Spring Will Be a Little Late This Year" -- was also recorded at these sessions and remained unissued until its inclusion on the ten-disc Rahsaan: The Complete Mercury Recordings of Roland Kirk box set.

Roland Kirk With Jack McDuff - 1961 - Kirk's Work

Roland Kirk With Jack McDuff 
Kirk's Work

01. Three For Dizzy 5:11
02. Makin' Whoopee 5:07
03. Funk Underneath 6:15
04. Kirk's Work 3:54
05. Doin' The Sixty-Eight 4:20
06. Too Late Now 3:52
07. Skaters Waltz 4:23

Bass – Joe Benjamin
Drums – Arthur Taylor
Organ – Jack McDuff
Tenor Saxophone, Flute, Saxophone, Wind – Roland Kirk

Recorded at Rudy Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, NJ, July 11, 1961

Technically his third album, following Introducing Roland Kirk (Chess, 1960), and a previously unissued R&B session (Triple Threat), Kirk's Work pre-dates the boundless surrealism of his post-Rahsaan era. Sharing the bill with organist Jack McDuff, the record is commonly regarded as a fairly straight-ahead date made years before Kirk gradually transformed from a stunning virtuoso multi-instrumentalist into an iconic musical shaman. While not as outrageous as some of Kirk's later albums, this sublime 1961 date has its fair share of unusual subtle surprises, providing a few early examples of the man's twisted genius.

Already displaying remarkable prowess on his menagerie of thrift-store horns (manzello, stritch, siren), Kirk displays each to its own effect. His ability to play two and three saxophones at a time is already apparent, although his mastery of circular breathing was still a few years away. He limits his doubling to supportive riffing, rather than intertwining solo counterpoint, but the distinctive sound of his massed horns is still present.

"Funk Underneath" showcases Kirk's nascent vocalized flute stylings, blending gruff vocalizations with soaring flute harmonics. The dark-hued title track and "Skater's Waltz" demonstrate Kirk's aggressive hard bop attack, something he perfected over the course of his Atlantic Records tenure as he ascended from swinging modernist into unclassifiable genius.

The rhythm section contributes heavily to the session, providing more than just run of the mill backbeats for Kirk to riff over. Jack McDuff's greasy down home organ instills the session with a buoyant sensibility, celebratory and optimistic. Benjamin and Taylor are a tight, snappy rhythm section, Taylor strikes hard and deep, sounding at times like Roy Haynes. "Doin' The Sixty-Eight" finds the rhythm duo deep in a pulsating polyrhythmic groove, dragging Kirk and McDuff headfirst into the infectious Latin rhythms.

A solid and infinitely enjoyable album easily overlooked in the massive and convoluted discography of such a diverse artist, Kirk's Work is more than just an embryonic session. It's an accessible classic, the sort of unconventional soul jazz/hard bop hybrid that only Roland Kirk could deliver.

Kirk's Work, Rahsaan Roland Kirk's third long-player, teams him up with organist "Brother" Jack McDuff for Kirk's most soulful post-bop set to date. His unorthodox performance style incorporates the polyphonies of a tenor sax, flute, manzello, and stritch. (The latter instrument is Kirk's own modification of a second-generation B-flat soprano sax.) This contributes to the unique sonic textures and overtones Kirk creates when playing two -- and often three -- of those lead instruments simultaneously. The loose and soulful nature of McDuff's Hammond organ lends itself to the swinging R&B vibe pervasive throughout the album. Completing the quartet is Joe Benjamin (bass) and Art Taylor (drums), both veteran jazzmen in their own right. They lend their expertise as well as innate sense of rhythm to the up-tempo "revival meetin'" rendition of Sammy Kahn's "Makin' Whoopee" as well as the ominous swing of the title track. This is also an ideal showcase for Benjamin and Taylor's running counterpoint that glides throughout -- supporting soloists Kirk and McDuff. Of the four original Kirk compositions, "Doin' the Sixty-Eight" is arguably the strongest. The percussive rhythms weave a hypnotic Latin groove over which Kirk and McDuff both snake some highly cerebral solos. The stellar interpretation of "Skater's Waltz" combines a well-known traditional melody with some of the most aggressive interaction from the quartet. The tune is put through its paces and the tenor sax/Hammond organ leads bounce around like a game of sonic ping pong. The more aggressive performance style that Kirk would later incorporate definitely shows signs of development on Kirk's Work. While certainly not the best in his catalog, it is a touchstone album that captures the early soulful Rahsaan Roland Kirk.

Roland Kirk - 1960 - Introducing Roland Kirk

Roland Kirk
Introducing Roland Kirk

01. The Call 8:42
02. Soul Station 5:50
03. Our Waltz 4:51
04. Our Love Is Here To Stay 4:50
05. Spirit Girl 5:30
06. Jack The Ripper 7:52

Bass – Don Garrett
Drums – Sonny Brown
Piano, Organ – William Burton
Tenor Saxophone, Saxophone – Roland Kirk
Trumpet, Tenor Saxophone – Ira Sullivan

Recorded:June 7, 1960, Chicago, IL
Released: 11/15/1960

Rahsaan Roland Kirk (1936-1977),blind man,happened to be one of the greatest voices in the history of jazz.He played all kinds of saxophones,including of course tenor sax,but also manzello, strich, flutes,and was able to play simultaneously two or three horns.His playing was one of jazz's most original.He played in Charles Mingus band ("oh yeah" on Columbia),and recorded until his death,at 41,although he suffered a stroke that let him paralized.In his last record,"boogie woogie string along for real" on Atlantic,he invited an old-time blues pianist, Sammy Price,and recorded magnificent tune with him (Tiny Grimes was also in the band!!).THis record, the first he made under his name,shows Roland Kirk teaming with the underrated Ira Sullivan (trumpet and tenor sax),bassist Don Garrett (who will later play with Coltrane),pianist William Burton (or Ron,or Rahn Burton,who will often play with Kirk,and who recorded a beautiful album on DIW some ten years ago),and drummer Sonny Brown,who's way of playing reminds me of my friend Sam Woodyard.This is a great hard bop session,including a standard ("our love is here to stay),and blues and gospel tunes that are very reminiscent of Mingus and Blakey.William Burton shows that he can play great things on organ too.Real hard swinging music which will remind you of some Charles Mingus,Art Blakey or Jackie McLean albums of the same time.Listen to the minor keyed "soul station",which includes a phrase from Horace Sliver's "doodlin'",and listen to Kirk's solo on this tune;it could have been played by Hank Mobley .Listen to "the call" or "Jack the ripper";at this time,Kirk was only 24 years old.Try to remember the way Bird played in 1944,for exemple.Kirk was a true genius,and this album is a magnificent proof of that.Speaking of swing,the world has rarely been better used than to describe the atmosphere of this album.I never could classify jazz in N.O.,mainstream,swing,bop or free;to me,JOhn Coltrane and Skip James play exactly the same thing (if you're not sure,listen to Coltrane's "Alabama",then Skip's "hard time killing floor blues");Roland Kirk is just an actor of jazz history,a member of the Great Black Music,who could have played with Duke as well as with Albert Ayler.An incredible musician,proud of his roots, the blues, and exploring the future,as every good jazz musician did.

This 1960 session was the first on which Kirk revealed his extraordinary ability to play multiple saxophones simultaneously, adding the exotic manzello and stritch to his tenor to simulate a reed section. He's joined on this Chicago recording by excellent if underrated local sidemen who shared some of his unusual prowess. Ira Sullivan, a fine bop journeyman who had played with Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers, had already mastered the unusual double of trumpet and tenor saxophone, with his own voice on each instrument, while the bassist Donald Rafael Garrett would later play bass clarinet with John Coltrane. Even the keyboard player, William Burton, doubles here on piano and organ. The music is hard bop at its most soulful, with Kirk's strong gospel and blues roots evident on originals like "The Call" and "Spirit Girl." This recording captures him as he was rapidly developing into one of the most fluently creative tenor soloists in jazz. --Stuart Broomer