Roland Kirk's name was not unfamiliar to me (being linked to Soft Machine's music) and although I had my jazz section well stocked with the likes of Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk and John Coltrane, I had never got into Kirk's music. Until now, that is. I thought this anthology would be a nice way to get myself acquainted and it really paid off. This collection of tracks is as versatile as you could wish for, reflecting Kirk's own ability to switch easily from one instrument to another (sometimes he's even playing two simultaneously!). It ranges from Duke Ellington moods to funk influenced workouts and it's all very well played and quite exhilarating (excepting the track 'Do nothing' destroyed by Al Hibbler's over the top vocals), avoiding the endless use of 'swing' rhythm that dominates too many jazz albums. Rahsaan Roland Kirk is a unique jazz musician with excellent compositions, bringing a big smile to my face as this man clearly knows how to combine fun and seriousness without succumbing to one or the other. Superb stuff, I'd say. I will certainly delve deeper into his goldmine of recordings.
My appreciation for Roland Kirk began after finding out that he played the flute on Quincy Jones' Soul Bossa Nova, and that he also played on Charles Mingus' Eat That Chicken. I felt him to be an amazing sideman.
I also discovered via an excellent album, Eric Burden declares War, that Kirk was appreciated amongst the 60s rock cognoscenti, and War perform an excellent tribute to Kirk. Likewise, Kirk was covered by Jethro Tull on their first album, This Was, with Serenade to A Cuckoo: of which a live version appears on this compilation. Furthermore, I was also familiar with Derek Trucks' Band version of Volunteered Slavery from their album Songlines. Youtube also has footage of Kirk performing with Jack Bruce, Eric Clapton, and Buddy Guy from a 1969 concert.
This 2cd set highlights material from the last 12 years of Kirk's life, and features amazing soul-jazz tracks like Making Love After Hours, free jazz tracks like A Tribute to John Coltrane, and a short cover of Ain't No Sunshine, which shows Kirk to be more than familiar with modern pop. There's also some excellent jazz-fusion with Seasons and Pedal Up, and a wonderful duet with Al Hibbler on Do Nothin Till You Hear From Me.
Why is Roland Kirk so great ? His blindness is a factor, but also the fact that he could move from one genre of jazz to another. You can even discern New Orleans marching jazz on The Black & Crazy Blues, and The Inflated Tear. The man was an underrated giant in jazz, and I would recommend purchase of this album. After all, Bjork, Paul Weller, Ian Anderson, Derek Trucks, Robert Wyatt, Eric Burden, and Jack Bruce cannot be wrong.
This is an amazing double LP at a fair price. What could I say more? Enigmatic, inventive, exotic, exuberant, extravagant... Absolutely a surprise. Excellent sound, stereo scene and press. Highly recommended.