Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Roland Kirk - 1975 - The Case of the 3 Sided Dream in Audio Color

Rashaan Roland Kirk
The Case of the 3 Sided Dream in Audio Color

01. Conversation 0:57
02. Bye Bye Blackbird 2:37
03. Horses (Monogram/Republic) 0:19
04. High Heel Sneakers 4:48
05. Dream 0:52
06. Echoes Of Primitive Ohio And Chili Dogs 6:52
07. The Entertainer (Done In The Style Of The Blues) 6:00
08. Freaks For The Festival 4:00
09. Dream 1:31
10. Portrait Of Those Beautiful Ladies 6:22
11. Dream 0:59
12. The Entertainer 6:12
13. Dream 1:05
14. Dream 0:24
15. Portrait Of Those Beautiful Ladies 7:53
16. Dream 0:50
17. Freaks For The Festival 5:34
18. sesroH 0:19
19. Bye Bye Blackbird 2:37
20. Conversation 0:53

Baritone Saxophone – Pat Patrick
Bass – Francisco Centeno, Metathias Pearson, Bill Salter
Congas – Lawrence Killian
Congas, Percussion – Ralph MacDonald
Drums – John Goldsmith, Sonny Brown, Steven Gadd
Guitar – Cornell Dupree, Hugh McCracken, Keith Loving
Keyboards – Arthur Jenkins, Hilton Ruiz, Richard Tee
Sounds [Sound Effects Clack Studios] – Tom Clack
Tenor Saxophone, Bass Saxophone, Flute, Trumpet, Saxophone [Manzello] – Rahsaan Roland Kirk

Recorded and remixed at Regent Sound Studios, NYC, May 14, 1975

*Side D track as quoted from the label: "This is side four of a three sided album. There Is no music on this side. Grooves have been cut into the record so that no damage can be done to the stylus or tone arm if this side were accidently placed on the changer."

Roland Kirk's habit of playing two or more saxes at once, singing through his flute or breaking glass in the studio always seemed to mark him out as a curious eccentric, despite the achievements of albums like I Talk With the Spirits and The Inflated Tear. And although he could blow any other saxophonist off the face of the earth on a good night (check his barnstorming tenor on Charles Mingus' At Carnegie Hall for proof), his solo records remained too wayward for many.

Kirk's 70s albums outdid themselves on that score, and this one (from 1975) is possibly the strangest. It's a concept album in the loosest sense of the word. Dotted through it are several 'Dreams'. These are brief montages of sound effects; trains, horses, klaxons, explosions,fragments of classical music, bebop, a burst of Billie Holliday... Plus there are two short exchanges between Rahsaan and a computer. Quite what any of this means is anyone's guess, but there's fun to be had trying to work it out.

And then there's the music. By this time Rahsaan had got the funk, and was given to including contemporary soul material in his sets.But here the covers are confined to well-worn standards. He has a crack at some of them more than once, including two unlikelyromps through Scott Joplin's "The Entertainer"; the first ('done in the style of the blues') features some sweet, gutsy tenor. The second emerges from a deranged blast of psychedelic freakery, dispatches the melody and morphs into a modal, latin tinged funk workout. Rahsaan unleashes a lysergic beauty of a solo that seems to consist of one note before erupting into urgent flurries and impassioned screams.

Similarly Kirk's "Portrait of Those Beautiful Ladies" (a rewrite of"Lover Man") turns up twice; once as a slinky slice of flute led funk and again as a restless, jazzier take with Kirk overdubbing himself into a big band sax section. The large supporting cast features fusion heavies like Richard Tee, Steve Gadd and Cornell Deupree, plus Latin pianist Hilton Ruiz and Sun Ra's baritone man Pat Patrick. The rhythm sections are great on the funkier stuff -"Freaks for the Festival" and "High Heel Sneakers" are guaranteed floorfillers, but the straighter jazz material suffers. "Bye Bye Blackbird" (again, presented twice) is let down by a rhythm section to whom the concept of swing is a mystery. But at least it's short.

After 12 minutes of silence at the album's close, Rahsaan is heard summing up the album in a phone call. "I would like to say bright moments and joy to the universe, to all the beautiful people that might take time out to paste their ears to this very beautiful spinning piece of material...enjoy". Indeed. A mysterious, infuriating yet occasionally wonderful record.

Perhaps I am an apologist for Rahsaan Roland Kirk, I don't know. If I am then I should be smacked, because he needed no one to make apologies for him. The Case of the 3-Sided Dream in Audio Color is a case in point. The namby-pamby jazz critics, those "serious" guys who look for every note to be in order before they'll say anything positive, can shove it on this one. They panned the hell out of it in 1975, claiming it was "indulgent." Okay. Which Kirk record wasn't? Excess was always the name of the game for Kirk, but so was the groove, and here on this three-sided double LP, groove is at the heart of everything. Surrounding himself with players like Cornell Dupree, Hugh McCracken, Richard Tee, Hilton Ruiz (whose playing on "Echoes of Primitive Ohio and Chili Dogs" is so greasy, so deliciously dirty it's enthralling), Steve Gadd, and others from that soul-jazz scene, it's obvious what you're gonna get, right? Nope. From his imitations of Miles Davis and John Coltrane on "Bye, Bye, Blackbird" to his screaming, funky read on "High Heel Sneakers" to his Delta-to-New-Orleans version of "The Entertainer," Kirk is deep in the groove. But the groove he moves through is one that is so large, so universal, deep, and serene, that it transcends all notions of commercialism versus innovation. Bottom line, even with the charming tape-recorded ramblings of his between tunes, this was his concept and it works like a voodoo charm. Here's one for the revisionists: This record jams.

Roland Kirk - 1974 - Bright Moments

Rashaan Roland Kirk
Bright Moments 

01. Introduction 2:06
02. Pedal Up 11:52
03. You'll Never Get To Heaven 9:48
04. Clackety Clack 2:30
04. Prelude To A Kiss 5:05
05. Talk (Electric Nose) 2:33
06. Fly Town Nose Blues 8:52
07. Talk (Bright Moments) 3:30
08. Bright Moments Song 10:02
09. Dem Red Beans And Rice 7:05
10. If I Loved You 8:50
11. Talk (Fats Waller) 1:30
12. Jitterbug Waltz 7:00
13. Second Line Jump 1:30

Bass – Henry Pearson
Drums – Robert Shy
Flute, Tenor Saxophone, Saxophone [Manzello], Saxophone [Stritch] – Rahsaan Roland Kirk
Percussion – Joe Habao
Piano – Ron Burton
Synthesizer, Tambourine – Todd Barkan

Recorded live at Keystone Korner, San Francisco, California, on June 8 & 9, 1973

Rahsaan Roland Kirk's live club gigs were usually engaging, freewheeling affairs, full of good humor and a fantastically wide range of music. The double album Bright Moments (reissued as a double CD) is a near-definitive document of the Kirk live experience, and his greatest album of the '70s. The extroverted Kirk was in his element in front of an audience, always chatting, explaining his concepts, and recounting bits of jazz history. Even if some of his long, jive-talking intros can sound a little dated today, it's clear in the outcome of the music that Kirk fed voraciously off the energy of the room. Most of the tracks are long (seven minutes or more), demonstrating Kirk's wealth of soloing ideas in a variety of styles (and, naturally, on a variety of instruments). "Pedal Up" is a jaw-dropping demonstration of Kirk's never-duplicated three-horns-at-once technique, including plenty of unaccompanied passages that simply sound impossible. There's more quintessential Kirk weirdness on "Fly Town Nose Blues," which heavily features an instrument called the nose flute, and the title track has a healthy dose of Kirk singing through his (traditional) flute. His repertoire is typically eclectic: Ellington's "Prelude to a Kiss"; a groovy Bacharach pop tune in "You'll Never Get to Heaven"; a lovely version of Fats Waller's "Jitterbug Waltz"; and a stomping, exultant New Orleans-style original, "Dem Red Beans and Rice." Perhaps the best, however, is an impassioned rendition of the ballad standard "If I Loved You," where Kirk's viscerally raw, honking tone hints in a roundabout way at the avant-garde without ever losing its melodic foundation. Bright Moments empties all the major items out of Kirk's bag of tricks, providing a neat microcosm of his talents and displaying a consummate and knowledgeable showman. In short, it's nothing less than a tour de force.

Roland Kirk - 1973 - Prepare Thyself to Deal With a Miracle

Rashaan Roland Kirk
Prepare Thyself to Deal With a Miracle

01. Salvation And Reminiscing 5:22
02. Seasons 9:37
a. One Mind Winter/Summer
b. Ninth Ghost
03. Celestial Bliss 5:40
04. Saxophone Concerto 21:00
a. Saxophone Miracle
b. One Breath Beyond
c. Dance Of Revolution

Saxophones, Flute – Rahsaan Roland Kirk
Bass – Henry Pearson
Cello – Kermit Moore
Drums – Robert Shy
Percussion – Ralph MacDonald, Sonny Brown
Piano – Ron Burton
Trombone – Dick Griffin
Trumpet – Charles McGhee
Viola – Al Brown
Violin – Gayle Dixon, Julien Barber, Sanford Allen, Selwart Clarke

The 21 minute "Saxophone Concerto" is a titanic work that for me belongs up there with any of Sun Ra's major works, with Coltrane's Meditations and the like. More than just a good song, it's a grand statement of purpose not unlike other capsule versions of jazz history that Kirk released - and he's incredible throughout. But the other cuts here are equally compelling - "Salvation and Reminiscing" pits Kirk's clarinet against vocals, shrill strings, breaking glass before settling into a groove over which he lets out with a gorgeous solo. "Seasons" is a mellower affair, with Kirk on flute over a gentle rhythm set up by the strings (especially Henry Pearson's insistent bass figures) and floating percussion effects rather than a drum pulse. Included is a typically Kirk-ian vocalized solo, but even this doesn't carry the track away from its lovely drift. And just when I was about to note how earthbound Kirk sounds moving in this sort of ethno-free jazz groove thing that Pharoah Sanders was also engaged in around this time as compared with Sanders or Sun Ra, I read the title of the last cut on the record, "Celestial Bliss," which even so manages to sound terrestrial rather than otherworldly or after worldly. A fantastic showcase for Kirk and an all-around great album.

Roland Kirk & Al Hibbler - 1972 - A Meeting Of The Times

Rahsaan Roland Kirk & Al Hibbler 
A Meeting Of The Times

01. Do Nothing Till You Hear From Me 4:38
02. Daybreak 3:12
03. Lover Come Back To Me 3:48
04. Don't Get Around Much Anymore 2:53
05. This Love Of Mine 4:55
06. Carney And Begard Place 5:34
07. I Didn't Know About You 4:01
08. Something 'Bout Believing 6:05
09. Dream 2:30

Recorded at Atlantic Studios, NY on March 14 (track 9), March 30 (tracks 2-4 & 8) & March 31 (tracks 1 & 5-7), 1965

Rahsaan Roland Kirk: tenor saxophone, manzello, stritch, flute, clarinet, baritone saxophone
Al Hibbler: vocals (tracks 1-5, 7 & 8)
Hank Jones: piano (tracks 1-8)
Ron Carter: bass (tracks 1-8)
Grady Tate: drums (tracks 1-8)
Leon Thomas: vocals (track 9)
Lonnie Liston Smith: piano (track 9)
Major Holley: bass (track 9)
Charles Crosby: drums (track 9)

On first glance this LP combines together a pair of unlikely musical partners; the unique multi-instrumentalist Rahsaan Roland Kirk and Duke Ellington's former ballad singer Al Hibbler. However Rahsaan was very well acquainted with Ellington's music and he plays respectfully behind Hibbler on many of the standards, taking the wild "Carney and Bigard Place" as an instrumental. Hibbler (who did not record much this late in his career) is in good voice and phrases as eccentrically as ever on such songs as "Do Nothin' Till You Hear from Me," "Don't Get Around Much Anymore" and "I Didn't Know About You." One leftover selection from Rahsaan's session with singer Leon Thomas ("Dream") rounds out this surprising set.

Roland Kirk - 1972 - Blacknuss

Rashaan Roland Kirk 

01. Ain't No Sunshine 2:26
02. What's Goin' On / Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology) 3:46
03. Take Me Girl, I'm Ready 2:48
04. I Love You Yes I Do 3:19
05. My Girl 3:06
06. Which Way Is It Going 2:24
07. One Nation 3:40
08. Never Can Say Goodbye 4:00
09. Old Rugged Cross 7:14
10. Make It With You 4:50
11. Blacknuss 5:13

Bass – Henry Pearson (tracks: A1, B1, B4), Bill Salter (tracks: A2 to A7, B2, B3)
Congas – Richard Landrum (tracks: A1, B1, B4)
Congas, Cabasa [Cabassa] – Arthur Jenkins (tracks: A2 to A7, B2, B3)
Drums – Bernard Purdie (tracks: A2 to A7, B2, B3), Khalil Mhdri (tracks: A1, B1, B4)
Flute, Tenor Saxophone, Whistle [Police Whistle], Gong, Saxophone [Manzello, Stritch], Arranged By – Rahsaan Roland Kirk
Guitar – Billy Butler (tracks: A1, B1, B4), Cornell Dupree (tracks: A2 to A7, B2, B3), Keith Loving (tracks: A2 to A7, B2, B3)
Organ – Mickey Turner (tracks: A2 to A7, B2, B3)
Percussion – Joe Habad Texidor
Piano – Richard Tee (tracks: A2 to A7, B2, B3), Sonelius Smith (tracks: A1, B1, B4)
Trombone – Dick Griffin (tracks: A2 to A7, B2, B3)
Trumpet – Charles McGhee (tracks: A2 to A7, B2, B3)
Vocals – Rahsaan Roland Kirk (tracks: A1, A5, B1, B4)

From its opening bars, with Bill Salter's bass and Rahsaan's flute passionately playing Bill Withers' "Ain't No Sunshine," you know this isn't an ordinary Kirk album (were any of them?). As the string section, electric piano, percussion, and Cornel Dupree's guitar slip in the back door, one can feel the deep soul groove Kirk is bringing to the jazz fore here. As the tune fades just two and a half minutes later, the scream of Kirk's tenor comes wailing through the intro of Marvin Gaye's "What's Goin' On," with a funk backdrop and no wink in the corner -- he's serious. With Richard Tee's drums kicking it, the strings developing into a wall of tension in the backing mix, and Charles McGhee's trumpet hurling the long line back at Kirk, all bets are off -- especially when they medley the mother into "Mercy Mercy Me." By the time they reach the end of the Isleys' "I Love You, Yes I Do," with the whistles, gongs, shouting, soul crooning, deep groove hustling, and greasy funk dripping from every sweet-assed note, the record could be over because the world has already turned over and surrendered -- and the album is only ten minutes old! Blacknuss, like The Inflated Tear, Volunteered Slavery, Rip, Rig and Panic, and I Talk to the Spirits, is Kirk at his most visionary. He took the pop out of pop and made it Great Black Music. He took the jazz world down a peg to make it feel its roots in the people's music, and consequently made great jazz from pop tunes in the same way his forbears did with Broadway show tunes. While the entire album shines like a big black sun, the other standouts include a deeply moving read of "My Girl" and a version of "The Old Rugged Cross" that takes it back forever from those white fundamentalists who took all the blood and sweat from its grain and replaced them with cheap tin and collection plates. On Kirk's version, grace doesn't come cheap, though you can certainly be a poor person to receive it. Ladies and gents, Blacknuss is as deep as a soul record can be and as hot as a jazz record has any right to call itself. A work of sheer blacknuss!

Roland Kirk - 1971 - Natural Black Inventions: Root Strata

Rashaan Roland Kirk 
Natural Black Inventions: Root Strata

01. Something For Trane That Trane Could Have Said 3:05
02. Island Cry 3:52
03. Runnin' From The Trash 2:12
04. Day Dream 3:40
05. The Ragman And The Junkman Ran From The Businessman They Laughed And He Cried 3:02
06. Breath-A-Tron 1:55
07. Rahsaanica 3:40
08. Raped Voices 1:54
09. H8aunted Feelings 2:25
10. Prelude Back Home 3:44
11. Dance Of The Lobes 2:05
12. Harder & Harder Spiritual 2:32
13. Black Root 3:17

Recorded Jan. 26 & Feb. 4, 1971 at Regent Sound Studios, New York City

Clarinet, Flute, Pipe, Harmonium, Piccolo Flute, Bass Drum, Cymbal, Bells, Timpani, Gong, Tenor Saxophone, Liner Notes – Rahsaan Roland Kirk
Congas – Maurice McKinley
Piano – Sonelius Smith
Washboard, Triangle, Tambourine – Joe Habad Texidor

Other than a couple of percussionists (and piano accompaniment on "Day Dream" by Sonelius Smith), all of the music on this rather unusual solo LP was created by Rahsaan Roland Kirk without overdubs or edits. He plays tenor, stritch, manzello, clarinets, flutes, black mystery pipes, percussion, and adds various sound effects, often two or three instruments simultaneously. The performances are episodic and colorful with plenty of humor and adventurous moments, worthy of repeated listenings and amazement.

Here's another one-of-a-kind jazz record for ya. But let's put "jazz" in quotes here because this collection of superhuman demonstrations of virtuoso technique disguised as impressionistic tone poems recorded live in the studio by a ONE MAN BAND has a sound too unique to fit into a simple one-word genre description.

Short Bio: Roland Kirk was not born blind, but lost his sight at an early age due to a nurse's mistake. But he grew up to be a musical prodigy of great musical vision, releasing his first album at the tender age of 21. He had a dream where he was playing two horns at once, so he learned how to do it! Later he mastered playing three at once -- saxes, clarinets, flutes, gizmos he made up called the "stritch" & "manzello", nose flute, whatever (and if you're wondering where the Rahsaan came from -- that was a dream too.)

He did a stint in Mingus' band in the early 60's. He recorded a pair of masterpiece jazz LP's in 1967, the forward-thinking "Rip Rig & Panic" and the more traditional yet still totally jet-age "The Inflated Tear." By the end of the 60's and into the 70's his reputation was made, but as "they" say he became more erratic -- in other words he did anything and everything he felt like, playing with everyone from string quartets to electric fusion groups, doing material ranging from out-there challenging to top pop hits of the moment. He suffered a series of strokes starting in 1975, kept touring even after he became paralyzed on the right side of his body(!), and eventually shuffled off in 1977. Allegedly the worst-selling record of his career was 1971's "Natural Black Inventions: Root Strata" which is without a doubt RRK's most singular work.

I could do a rundown of what he's doing on each track of this album, which is fascinating in and of itself -- he's always playing between two and five instruments simultanesously (no overdubs bub), about half of the tracks with no other musicians at all. He "splits the lobes" and plays two interweaving solos at the same time on two horns, left brain controlling right hand and vice versa. He's also mastered circular breathing, so he can play 3 minutes without pausing for breath, no problem.* And while he's doing all that, his foot is keeping the beat on bass drum or "sock cymbal", with the occasional gong punctuations etc. etc.! There's only one word to describe his technical abilities, and that's "SUPERHUMAN." He had more musical ability in his pinky toe than most small principalities.

But you shouldn't need to know all that to appreciate the music, and RR Kirk is a prolific mutha and I've yet to come across an album by him that's less than "pretty damn great" so you can bet when he does something extreme like this it's worth a listen! Most of these tracks are hardly songs, they're more like moods and textures -- the interplay between the "musicians" (Rah's various limbs in other words!) is uncanny, like a bunch of small furry critters grooving in a cave to a mind control machine. Some parts are tranquil & beautiful, others unsettling or freakadelic, there are references to Duke and Trane and Mingus and Fats and "acid rock" and even a chorus of "Hava Nagila"! 

The overall mood of the record is best described as "magical" -- this is the ultimate example of an artist giving listeners a glimpse into their inner sound-world.

Roland Kirk - 1970 - Rahsaan Rahsaan

Rahsaan Roland Kirk & The Vibration Society
Rahsaan Rahsaan

01. The Seeker 17:21
Black Classical Rap
The Seeker
Thank You, Bird
New Orleans
02. Satin Doll 2:16
03. Introduction 1:40
04. Medley 4:50
Going Home
Sentimental Journey
In Monument
05. Sweet Fire 6:02
06. Introduction 3:17
07. Baby Let Me Shake Your Tree 4:54

Bass – Vernon Martin
Congas – Alvern Bunn
Drums – James Madison
Piano – Ron BurtonSaxophone, Flute, Clarinet – Roland Kirk
Tambourine – Joe Texidor
Trombone – Dick Griffin
Tuba – Howard Johnson
Violin – LeRoy Jenkins

Roland Kirk and his band -- which, along with his normal companions Howard Johnson on tuba, Dick Griffin on trombone, Ron Burton on piano, and Vernon Martin on bass, added Leroy Jenkins on violin, Alvern Bunn on conga, Sonelius Smith on celeste and piano, and Joe Texidor on various sound objects to the mix -- once more indulge his obsession with creating modern day "black classical music." Recorded on one night -- Christmas Eve 1969, two days before Johnny Hodges died -- this is one of the weirdest records Kirk ever recorded, but it certainly has merit. Beginning with a 17-minute conceptual suite called "The Seeker," this was classical music Kirk style. The fact that his music here careens from vanguard atonalities to deep swinging blues grooves and wide-ranging color orchestrations worthy of Ellington is part of the Kirk paradox: If you hate it, wait a second -- it'll change. Other tracks here include a steamy "Satin Doll," a bluesy, mood-driven "Sweet Fire," and an almost obscene "Baby Let Me Shake Your Tree," all played with a host of horns in Kirk's mouth, all playing either ostinato or soloing at the same time, splitting the lobes as he called it, and all of them directing a very tight, wildly celebratory band. Rahsaan was the king of the riff -- he could use it until it bit you -- and once it did he was off and running someplace else, down on the hard-swinging outer spaceways of his mind and heart.

Roland Kirk - 1969 - Volunteered Slavery

Roland Kirk 
Volunteered Slavery

01. Volunteered Slavery 5:40
02. Spirits Up Above 3:36
03. My Cherie Amour 3:17
04. Search For The Reason Why 2:04
05. I Say A Little Prayer 7:56
06. Roland's Opening Remarks 0:40
07. One Ton 4:55
08. Ovation & Roland's Remarks 1:45
09. A Tribute To John Coltrane 8:10
a. Lush Life
b. Afro-Blue
c. Bessie's Blues
10. Three For The Festival 4:00

Backing Vocals – Roland Kirk Spirit Choir
Bass – Vernon Martin
Drums – Charles Crosby, Jimmy Hopps, Sonny Brown
Piano – Ron Burton
Tenor Saxophone, Flute, Nose Flute, Gong, Whistle, Horns, Vocals – Roland Kirk
Trombone – Dick Griffin
Trumpet – Charles McGhee

Side two of this album (6-10) was recorded at the Newport Jazz Festival in 1968.

Before the issue of Blacknuss, Rahsaan Roland Kirk was already exploring ways in which to make soul and R&B rub up against jazz and come out sounding like deep-heart party music. Volunteered Slavery, with its beat/African chanted poetry and post-bop blues ethos was certainly the first strike in the right direction. With a band that included Charles McGhee on trumpet, Dick Griffin on trombone, organist Mickey Tucker, bassist Vernon Martin, drummers Jimmy Hopps and Charles Grady, as well as Sony Brown, Kirk made it work. From the stinging blues call and response of the tile track through the killer modern creative choir jam on "Spirits Up Above" taking a small cue from Archie Shepp's Attica Blues. But it's when Kirk moves into the covers, of "My Cherie Amour," "I Say a Little Prayer," and the Coltrane medley of "Afro Blue," "Lush Life," and "Bessie's Blues," that Kirk sets it all in context: how the simplest melody that makes a record that sells millions and touches people emotionally, can be filled with the same heart as a modal, intricate masterpiece that gets a few thousand people to open up enough that they don't think the same way anymore. For Kirk, this is all part of the black musical experience. Granted, on Volunteered Slavery he's a little more formal than he would be on Blacknuss, but it's the beginning of the vein he's mining. And when the album reaches its end on "Three for the Festival," Kirk proves that he is indeed the master of any music he plays because his sense of harmony, rhythm, and melody comes not only from the masters acknowledged, but also from the collective heart of the people the masters touched. It's just awesome.