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Rahsaan Roland Kirk

Arguably the most exciting saxophone soloist in jazz history, Kirk was a post-modernist before that term even existed. Kirk played the continuum of jazz tradition as an instrument unto itself; he felt little compunction about mixing and matching elements from the music's history, and his concoctions usually seemed natural, if not inevitable. When discussing Kirk, a great deal of attention is always paid to his eccentricities -- playing several horns at once, making his own instruments, clowning on stage. However, Kirk was an immensely creative artist; perhaps no improvising saxophonist has ever possessed a more comprehensive technique -- one that covered every aspect of jazz, from Dixieland to free -- and perhaps no other jazz musician has ever been more spontaneously inventive. His skills in constructing a solo are of particular note. Kirk had the ability to pace, shape, and elevate his improvisations to an extraordinary degree. During any given Kirk solo, just at the point in the course of his performance when it appeared he could not raise the intensity level any higher, he always seemed able to turn it up yet another notch.

Kirk was born with sight, but became blind at the age of two. He started playing the bugle and trumpet, then learned the clarinet and C-melody sax. Kirk began playing tenor sax professionally in R&B bands at the age of 15. While a teenager, he discovered the "manzello" and "stritch" -- the former, a modified version of the saxello, which was itself a slightly curved variant of the B flat soprano sax; the latter, a modified straight E flat alto. To these and other instruments, Kirk began making his own improvements. He reshaped all three of his saxes so that they could be played simultaneously; he'd play tenor with his left hand, finger the manzello with his right, and sound a drone on the stritch, for instance. Kirk's self-invented technique was in evidence from his first recording, a 1956 R&B record called Triple Threat. By 1960 he had begun to incorporate a siren whistle into his solos, and by '63 he had mastered circular breathing, a technique that enabled him to play without pause for breath.

In his early 20s, Kirk worked in Louisville before moving to Chicago in 1960. That year he made his second album, Introducing Roland Kirk, which featured saxophonist/trumpeter Ira Sullivan. In 1961, Kirk toured Germany and spent three months with Charles Mingus. From that point onward, Kirk mostly led his own group, the Vibration Society, recording prolifically with a range of sidemen. In the early '70s, Kirk became something of an activist; he led the "Jazz and People's Movement," a group devoted to opening up new opportunities for jazz musicians. The group adopted the tactic of interrupting tapings and broadcasts of television and radio programs in protest of the small number of African-American musicians employed by the networks and recording studios. In the course of his career, Kirk brought many hitherto unused instruments to jazz. In addition to the saxes, Kirk played the nose whistle, the piccolo, and the harmonica; instruments of his own design included the "trumpophone" (a trumpet with a soprano sax mouthpiece), and the "slidesophone" (a small trombone or slide trumpet, also with a sax mouthpiece). Kirk suffered a paralyzing stroke in 1975, losing movement on one side of his body, but his homemade saxophone technique allowed him to continue to play; beginning in 1976 and lasting until his death a year later, Kirk played one-handed. ~ Chris Kelsey
full bio

Selected Discography

x

Track List: Pre Rahsaan

1. Three For Dizzy

2. Makin' Whoopee

3. Funk Underneath

4. Kirk's Work

5. Doin' The Sixty-Eight

6. Too Late Now

7. Skater's Waltz

8. Parisian Thoroughfare

9. Hazy Eve

10. Shine On Me

11. Evidence

12. Memories Of You

13. Teach Me Tonight

x

Track List: "Rahsaan" The Complete Mercury Recordings

Disc 1

1. Blues For Alice

2. Blues For Alice

3. My Delight

4. The Haunted Melody

5. A Sack Full Of Soul

6. We Free Kings

7. Spring Will Be A Little Late This Year

8. Moon Song

9. Some Kind Of Love

10. Three For The Festival

11. You Did It, You Did It

Disc 2

1. Get Out Of Town

2. Rolando

3. I Believe In You

4. Where Monk And Mingus Live / Let's Call This

5. Domino

6. E.D.

7. I Didn't Know What Time It Was

8. Someone To Watch Over Me

9. Termini's Corner

10. When The Sun Comes Out

11. Adlib

12. Stitt's Tune

13. I See With My Third

14. Medley: If I Had You, Alone Together, For Heaven's Sake

15. Afternoon In Paris

16. Lady

Disc 3

1. Meeting On Termini's Corner

2. Domino

3. Time

4. 3-In-1 Without The Oil

5. A Stritch In Time

6. Lament

7. A Breath In The Wind

8. Land Of Peace

9. Lonesome August Child

10. Limbo Boat

11. Hay Ro

12. Waltz Of The Friends

Disc 4

1. This Is Always

2. Reeds And Deeds

3. Song Of The Countrymen

4. Ecclusiastics

5. By Myself

6. Roland Speaks

7. A Nightingale Sang In Berkeley Square

8. Variations On A Theme Of Hindemith

9. I've Got Your Number

10. Between The Fourth And The Fifth Step

11. April Morning

12. Get In The Basement

13. Abstract Improvisation

Disc 5

1. Narrow Bolero

2. Narrow Bolero

3. My Heart Stood Still

4. No Title No.1

5. Mood Indigo

6. Cabin In The Sky

7. On The Corner Of King And Scott Streets

8. Untitled Blues

Disc 6

1. The Monkey Thing

2. Will You Still Be Mine

3. One For My Baby

4. We'll Be Together Again

5. Mingus-Griff Song

6. Mood Indigo

7. Medley: Rock-A-Bye Baby / Nearness Of You / No Title No.3

8. Half A Triple

Disc 7

1. Japan (Previously Unissued Master 1)

2. Japan (Previously Unissued Master 2)

3. Japan (Previously Unissued Master 3)

4. Berkshire Blues

5. Dirty Money Blues (Previously Unissued Master 1)

6. Dirty Money Blues (Previously Unissued Master 2)

7. Ad Lib (Hip Chops)

8. The Things I Love

9. Petite Fleur

10. March On, Swan Lake

11. Tears Sent By You

12. My Heart At Thy Sweet Voice

13. Gifts And Messages

14. Hip Chops

15. Blues For C & T

16. Where Does The Blame Lie?

17. Vertigo Ro

18. Jive Elephant**

Disc 8

1. I Talk With The Spirits

2. Serenade To A Cuckoo

3. Medley: We'll Be Together Again / People From Funny Girl

4. Ruined Castles

5. Trees

6. Fugue'n And Alludin'

7. Django

8. My Ship

9. A Quote From Clifford Brown

10. The Business Ain't Nothin' But The Blues

Disc 9

1. No Tonic Press

2. From Bechet, Fats And Byas

3. Slippery, Hippery, Flippery

4. Black Diamond

5. Rip, Rig & Panic

6. Once In A While

7. Mystical Dream

8. Walk On By

9. Juarez

10. Shakey Money

11. Ebrauqs

12. Raouf

13. Nothing But The Truth

14. Safari

15. It's All In The Game

16. And I Love Her

Disc 10

1. A Taste Of Honey

2. Dyna-Soar

3. Soul Bossa Nova

4. Comin' Home Baby

5. Days Of Wine And Roses

6. Moon River

7. Dreamsville

8. I Love You And Don't You Forget It

9. Charade

10. Peter Gunn

11. I Had A Ball

12. Addie's At It Again

Disc 11
x

Track List: Bright Moments

Disc 1

1. Introduction

2. Pedal Up (Live)

3. You'll Never Get To Heaven

4. Clickety Clack

5. Prelude To A Kiss (Live)

6. Talk (Electric Nose)

7. Fly Town Nose Blues (Live)

Disc 2

1. Talk (Bright Moments)

2. Bright Moments Song (Live)

3. Dem Red Beans And Rice

4. If I Loved You

5. Talk (Fats Waller)

6. Jitterbug Waltz

7. Second Line Jump

x

Track List: I Talk With The Spirits

1. Serenade To A Cuckoo

2. We'll Be Together Again People (From Funny Face)

3. A Quote From Clifford Brown

4. Trees

5. Fugue'n And Alludin'

6. The Business Ain't Nothin' But The Blues

7. I Talk With The Spirits

8. Ruined Castles

9. Django

10. My Ship (From Lady In The Dark)

x

Track List: Domino

1. Domino

2. Meeting In Termini's Corner

3. Time

4. Lament

5. A Stritch In Time

6. 3-In-1 Without The Oil

7. Get Out Of Town

8. Rolando

9. I Believe In You

10. E.D.

11. Where Monk And Mingus Live / Let's Call This

12. Domino (Alternate Version)

13. I Didn't Know What Time It Was

14. I Didn't Know What Time It Was

15. I Didn't Know What Time It Was

16. Someone To Watch Over Me (Breakdown Take)

17. Someone To Watch Over Me

18. Termini's Corner

19. Termini's Corner (Breakdown Take)

20. Termini's Corner

21. Termini's Corner (Breakdown Takes And Intercuts)

22. When The Sun Comes Out

23. When The Sun Comes Out

24. When The Sun Comes Out

25. Time Races With Emit

x

Track List: We Free Kings

1. Three For The Festival

2. Moon Song

3. A Sack Full Of Soul

4. The Haunted Melody

5. Blues For Alice (Alt. Take)

6. Blues For Alice (Master Take)

7. We Free Kings

8. You Did It, You Did It

9. Some Kind Of Love

10. My Delight

Comments

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He sat in on our gig one niight and tore the place up. later became a friend.
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please play some flute work from "Other Folk's Music"
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His talent and artistry are amazing!!!! Kirk's performance videos are a sight to behold I look forward to the opportunity to see a live performance.
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Kirk is one of the reasons I truly enjoy listening to music. From out of no where you hear Rahsaan come in blowing the ROOF of the place; simply LOVE IT!!!
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Great sounds sax solo the best I have heard lots of soul there.... :o))
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Rahsaan he's the Michael Jordan if the Sax. He did things that others dream of doing, what a force. I'm basis because he's my Dad. A laugh for Rory.

Rory Kirk
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charlesmcurr y j r 3
RRK came to Hampton U's Music Dept and astounded us all by teaching the circular breathing technique and how he was able to play three horns at once...non-s t o p . . . W h a t I learned from him about breathing altered the course and improved the quality of my life. Peace be upon him!
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Especially when the person who heard someone live gives some of their thoughts on the artist!
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I love it when people say they heard/saw someone live. Brag on! Whatever!
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anomalyunlim i t e d
wait, somebody noticed..... . m o n t h s ago? Is beta testing done yet, Pdora?
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anomalyunlim i t e d
great and all, but Brother Jack Mc Duff and Rahsaan Roland Kirk are not the same guy! no one else noticed yet? lol
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As wonderful as his recordings are, his live playing, with 30-minute solos of endless creativity, were even better. I saw him stepping from tabletop to rickey tabletop in The Village Vanguard blasting unbelievably intense, beautiful music from 3 horns at once. These are memories that last a lifetime.
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plumb63
I was unfortunate enough NOT to see him in somewhere USA...
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What's with the Pandora jazz bios lately? So often mixed up. This is the bio sketch of Jack McDuff linked to RR Kirk's selections. There are many other examples of these mix-ups lately -- or is just that I've begun noticing a long-term problem?
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This is not the comnplete discography of Rahsaan's work, whre is Volunteer Slavery and Blacknuss, etc...?????? ? ? ? ? ?
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Met Rashaan Roland Kirk at the Village Vanguard in 1978. Love this 'cut' or 'joint' as the youth say today. The words slay me, If you want to spend all day in bed with me . .. Volunteer Slavery. Wow, to be so engrossed in love making is to be a slave to the passion. Loved his totally unique approach to what he played. I am certain that his blindness had much to do with that as he heard what we who see often ignored or failed to hear.
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He's awesome...I saw him live...
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Why does everyone on Pandora brag about when they saw some musician live? We don't even know you. If you have some interesting story to tell, tell it, but we don't care that you saw him.
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creesevernon 5 6 7
A genius in and beyond his time...
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thekindling
Just heard March On, Swan Lake. Amazingly innovative and superbly rendered. Thanks!
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One of the deepest ever. I saw him with Ron Carter, McCoy Tyner, and Elvin Jones in a tribute to John Coltrane. He had circular breathing which meant he didn't have to take breaths between choruses. Unbelievable player and like I said, great depth to his music.
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Blacknuss! BF.
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I was fortunate enough to see Mr. Kirk in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in the early 70's. He "Blew" me away. He was to the Sax as Hendrix was to the Guitar.
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I WOULD LIKE TO HEAR MORE RAHSAAN AT THIS STATION COULD I HEAR SOME TUNES FROM BRIGHT MOMENTS,EARL Y KIRK,AND OTHER GREAT SOUNDS OF ROLAND KIRK
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in 1977 i was at a show at a campus in Philly Rashan played with Grover Washington Jr .Even though he was partly paralized on one side(only useds one hand) from a stroke he still wowed the crowd . I named one of my sons after him .I have been a fan for more than 40years.His music sounds as good as it always did.
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To call his talents less than astonishing are to sell them short. His music also has that rare quality-time l e s s n e s s . Most everything by him sounds fresh as when it was recorded.
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My mother used to sing us mingus and tell us to roll on with kirk and there we would find God on his pirch with Louis and Gabriel Dukin it out
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I love this brother. his music is truly magical. love him on the charles mingus set. check out his take on the gospel " the old rough cross "



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The most profirable, the one, bad m. I had a friend from puertorican descent call Hilton Ruiz who played with him. Hilton was my mentor here in puerto Rico. Hope he is doing better now.
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buyer915
One of the absolute BEST! Truly a bright moment in the history of jazz.
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folsomseattl e
MOTHERF**KER
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As great as Rahsaan's musical legacy is, it cannot measure up to the enjoyment he brought to live audiances both here in the US and around the world. He was both a great musician and a great entertainer. He could work a crowd like nobody else.
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And this is for what, wait a minute - I have a bright idea.
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For all the people in the world who never had a bright moment.
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In the tradition of jazz giants before and after him, Rahsaan Roland Kirk is a force that exerts an undeniable influence in all of jazz even today. His genius and unrestricted approach has earned him a place in the annals of jazz forever.
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a unlimited force of creativity and transcendent musician!
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just found heaven superb

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