The extraordinary multi-instrumentalist Rahsaan Roland Kirk(1936-1977) was in superb form for these studio sessions recorded in New York on August 16 & 17, 1961.
With Kirk(tenor sax, flute, stritch, manzello & siren) were Richard Wyands or Hank Jones(piano); Art Davis or Wendell Marshall(bass) & Charli Persip(drums).
The ten memorable tracks are mainly influenced by bop & blues and include seven Kirk originals. Highlights are Kirk's astonishing flute playing on 'Three For The Festival' & 'You Did It, You Did It', his Sonny Rollins-like tenor playing on 'Some Kind Of Love', Charlie Parker's 'Blues For Alice'(2 takes) and the wonderful title track based on the Christmas carol 'We Three Kings'.
'We Free Kings' is one of Kirk's finest albums and deserves a place in any modern jazz collection.
This album dates from 1961 and was Kirk's fourth album whether as leader or sideman. Recorded here with two quartets, one with Richard Wyands (p) and Art David (b) and Charlie Persip (d). The second also has CP on drums, with Hank Jones (p) and Wendell Marshall (b).
Roland Kirk plays tenor sax, stritch and manzello (the latter two are also in the saxophone family), flute and also interupts his solo with a siren! Sounds eccentric and for those unfamiliar with Kirk, he sometimes plays all three saxophones concurrently! Kirk had a reutation as a "wild man of jazz" but much of this is really pretty staightahead stuff but with the unusual feature of playing multiple instruments, blowing a siren or whistle, or singing or muttering at the same time.
Of the nine tunes here one is by Parker, another "Moon Song" by someone else, then the remainder are his own composition (or variations of traditional themes e.g. "We Free Kings" is from the Christmas Carol). There are ballads e.g. " The Haunted Melody" and blues, and more upbeat material.
His idiosyncratic playing works and this album is a joy.
on 14 October 2005
Usually, the first actor that you see playing Tarzan on screen remains for you the only 'real' one. The same applies to Sherlock Holmes and James Bond.
In Jazz the first album that you hear by a musician often remains the one with which you really identify. 'We Free Kings' was my introduction to Roland Kirk in the early '60s and it still sounds the best.
All of Roland's instruments are featured here, and all but two of the tunes are his compositions. The rhythm sections are solid and the sound quality is very good (AAD).