Rahsaan: Complete Mercury Recordings Roland Kirk

Album cover art for upc 042284663021
Label: MERCURY
Catalog: 846630-2
Format: CD

Last copy in stock and VERY rare!
It's hard to fathom today, but Roland Kirk was considered a gimmick for much of his early career. For sure, the man was a cagey character, which certainly didn't help his reputation. People were bemused by the way he played multiple horns simultaneously, including some horns that he invented himself. His style wasn't easy to pin down, either, so fluent was he in every jazz idiom. These factors help explain why folks were confused... but what exactly were they listening to? Even without his idiosyncrasies, Kirk would have been a memorable, innovative, inspiring tenor saxophonist, full of fire, tenderness, wit, and soul. And there was so much more: he remains one of the most compelling, hard-swinging, blues-drenched flute players in jazz history; his altolike stritch and his soprano-like manzello were capable of great beauty on his beloved ballads; his use of multiple horns included complex, luminous arrangements. In short, Kirk was master of all trades, and this 10-CD set captures him in a wide variety of settings recorded for Mercury from 1961 through 1965. There are numerous quartet sessions with top-level pianists: Hank Jones, Richard Wyands, Wynton Kelly, Andrew Hill, Harold Mabern, and Jaki Byard, who, along with bassist Richard Davis and drummer Elvin Jones, helped craft Kirk's masterpiece, Rip Rig and Panic. There are two discs' worth of live material from a Copenhagen club date featuring Tete Montoliu and special guest Sonny Boy Williamson (!), plus a handful of oddities ranging from full orchestras to an obscure organ quartet to a tenor summit with Tubby Hayes and James Moody. With all of the oddities and obscurities here, not all of this box is up to snuff. But most of it is outstanding, filled with crafty improvisations, lasting original compositions, and the various eccentricities that made Rahsaan what he was. This set reminds us that, for all his creativity, all his knowledge, all his experimentation, all his passion, Roland Kirk had fun playing music. --Marc Greilsamer

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