Friday, October 1, 2010

Pipes and Woodwinds: Roland Kirk Edition

Roland Kirk: Mingus-Griff Song

Roland Kirk: Mood Indigo


Rahsaan Roland Kirk was a one-man woodwind section. He could play three reeds simultaneously, and then go right into a flute solo (as he does on Ellington's "Mood Indigo"). He also modified his horns to produce unique instruments like the manzello and the stritch. and he was fond of throwing a siren into the mix whenever the mood struck.

He was often seen as a novelty act by the jazz purists of the day, but eventually came to be recognized as one of the truly unique voices in the genre. Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson nicked a fair bit of his flute style from Kirk, and they even recorded a cover of his "Serenade to a Cuckoo" on their first album.

The two songs I'm sharing in this post originally came from the live album Kirk in Copenhagen, recorded in October 1963 and released the following year (predating is adoption of the "Raahsan" moniker). Years later, the tracks were reissued as part of a mammoth 11-CD boxed set that included a much-expanded version of the Copenhagen album with the songs resequenced in proper order, putting these two tracks back-to-back. Not only do they make for a nice contrast in tempos, but at the end of the "Mingus-Griff Song" track, he explains how he will play "Mood Indigo" with the three reeds simultaneously playing different parts of the original arrangement. It's worth stating explicitly that Kirk is the only horn player on these tracks. Kids, don't try this at home!

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