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This review is from: Jazz Icons - Rahsaan Roland Kirk - Live In '63 And '67 [DVD]   (DVD)
There are simply no words adequate to describe the phenomenon that was Rahsaan Roland Kirk. Dreamer and prophet are in the mix, although iconoclast probably comes closest. The fact that Kirk was blind yet could play three horns simultaneously made him the most unusual and perhaps the most inspiring figure in jazz history. Yet both those facts take a back seat to his peerless musicianship, unimpeachable swing and unlimited soul. During his all too brief career (he died in 1977 at 41), Kirk defied expectations and set standards of experimentation and achievement that few others could match. He didn't really fit into any one musical bag, although he was most conversant in the interrelated languages of soul jazz, blues, gospel and hard bop. There was certainly nobody else like him, which the performances on this Jazz Icons DVD illuminate with striking clarity. Kirk is seen in a segment of a 1963 Belgian television series; a filmed nightclub gig in Amersfoort, Holland that same year; and at a 1967 Norway jazz festival. Despite the lack of an audience in the first segment, Kirk and his bandmates (George Gruntz on piano, Guy Pedersen on bass and Daniel Humair on drums) manage to fill the television studio with some genuine musical heat as they work through a program of original material and several standards stamped with Kirk's inimitable genius. The live ambience of the nightclub setting, again featuring the same band, seems to push Kirk to an even higher level of energy and inspiration. (And it's a kick to watch the Dutch hipsters in the club drinking and smoking and grooving to Rahssan's sounds.) The jazz festival gig also finds Kirk in excellent form, this time backed by pianist Ron Burton, drummer Alex Riel, and the great Danish bassist Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen. The footage in all three segments will be a revelation for those who never had the opportunity to watch Kirk perform. Ironically, his awe-inspiring technical facility tended to overshadow what an amazing soloist he was. Unlike many of his more celebrated peers whose reliance on favorite licks and phrases sometimes compromised their spontaneity, Kirk never repeated himself, never stumbled over notes, never seemed at a loss for ideas. And always, truth and beauty and hope and sadness poured out of his horns. Anyone even remotely interested in the transformative power of jazz (which Kirk astutely dubbed "black classical music") needs this DVD in his or her collection.
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