(Some thoughts from our webmaster, Jason Crane.)
Rahsaan Roland Kirk would have turned 83 earlier this month. He left us far too soon, but he also bequeathed to us an amazing collection of performances that people will be returning to for as long as people listen to music.
My appreciation of Rahsaan has deepened over the years. I first started paying attention to him about 20 years ago when I was living in Japan and saw some concert footage of one of his shows. Like anyone would be, I was immediately taken aback by the sheer amount of music he could make at one time with multiple horns, flutes, gongs, and more. As he stood there in his cool clothes and cool hat and sunglasses, he looked every inch the jazz wizard, conjuring sounds from another plane.
Later, when I was running a jazz radio station in Rochester, NY, two of my volunteer DJs were big Rahsaan fans and often played him on the show they hosted together. By then it was less about the visual spectacle and more about the sheer force of his playing. Listening to things like the live versions of “Volunteered Slavery” would take my breath away. Every time I’d think he’d hit the climax of the song, Rahsaan found another stairway to a higher heaven.
Starting on his birthday earlier this month, I listened to Rahsaan’s entire recorded output, studio and live recordings, in chronological order. It was an eye-opening experience, or more like a third-eye-opening experience. Rahsaan’s between-song patter in the live shows says it all. He recognized all kinds of black music as having worth, and ascribed that same worth to black people themselves. And he celebrated all of it, from the compositions of John Coltrane to the soul and R&B hits of the day. Rahsaan was the whole picture: a musician whose deep belief in the interconnectedness of all things poured out of him through his many instruments.
If you’ve never listened to Rahsaan, there are many great entry points, though I think the album Blacknuss would be my suggested beginning.
And finally, I recorded my own little tribute to Rahsaan on his birthday. I hope this isn’t self-serving, but I can tell you that it’s heartfelt. Bright moments!
Yeah, thanks for this great reminder of RRK and Bright Moments! A fitting tribute all around. I don’t remember the first time I heard Rahsaan, but I do remember a friend lending me the Charles Mingus record he played on, “Oh Yeah.” That combination was just as magical as any. And, yeah, who could not be taken by the sheer energy of Kirk? My appreciation of him has deepened over the years, too, as I occasionally binge on the records of his I do have. Though seriously overlooked by many, he was one of the towering saxophone players of the music by any measures. That he also covered all of Black music just indicates what a complete musician he was, and the video here of “Volunteered Slavery” gives us some idea of what his energy in person must have been like. All of his recorded output, huh? Man, that is tempting to dive into, if only what I can lay my hands on now.
I have to point out the local band that plays Kirk’s (and Mingus’) music, the aptly named “Bright Moments,” who played August 6 at the Outpost in Cambridge. The listing:
Monday 6 August @ Outpost, 8:30pm $10 or b/o
Bright Moments with
John Licata – trombone
Bob Drinkwater – reeds
Bob McCloskey – reeds
John Horner- piano
Dave Gold – bass
Tom Goodkind – drums
PLAYING THE MUSIC OF RAHSAAN ROLAND KIRK AND CHARLES MINGUS
Hope you can join us for a swingin’ evening.
Bob Drinkwater even plays tenor & soprano simultaneously. Thanks again for this tribute and reminder. Time to go seek some Bright Moments!
Sorry for the delay in replying, Scott. Thanks for your thoughts on RRK.