Re-issue of multi instrumentalist Kirk's 1975 'concept' record, made with producer...
Peter Marsh 2004
Roland Kirk's habit of playing two or more saxes at once, singing through his flute or breaking glass in the studio always seemed to mark him out as a curious eccentric, despite the achievements of albums like I Talk With the Spirits and The Inflated Tear. And although he could blow any other saxophonist off the face of the earth on a good night (check his barnstorming tenor on Charles Mingus' At Carnegie Hall for proof), his solo records remained too wayward for many.
Kirk's 70s albums outdid themselves on that score, and this one (from 1975) is possibly the strangest. It's a concept album in the loosest sense of the word. Dotted through it are several 'Dreams'. These are brief montages of sound effects; trains, horses, klaxons, explosions,fragments of classical music, bebop, a burst of Billie Holliday... Plus there are two short exchanges between Rahsaan and a computer. Quite what any of this means is anyone's guess, but there's fun to be had trying to work it out.
And then there's the music. By this time Rahsaan had got the funk, and was given to including contemporary soul material in his sets.But here the covers are confined to well-worn standards. He has a crack at some of them more than once, including two unlikelyromps through Scott Joplin's "The Entertainer"; the first ('done in the style of the blues') features some sweet, gutsy tenor. The second emerges from a deranged blast of psychedelic freakery, dispatches the melody and morphs into a modal, latin tinged funk workout. Rahsaan unleashes a lysergic beauty of a solo that seems to consist of one note before erupting into urgent flurries and impassioned screams.
Similarly Kirk's "Portrait of Those Beautiful Ladies" (a rewrite of"Lover Man") turns up twice; once as a slinky slice of flute led funk and again as a restless, jazzier take with Kirk overdubbing himself into a big band sax section. The large supporting cast features fusion heavies like Richard Tee, Steve Gadd and Cornell Deupree, plus Latin pianist Hilton Ruiz and Sun Ra's baritone man Pat Patrick. The rhythm sections are great on the funkier stuff -"Freaks for the Festival" and "High Heel Sneakers" are guaranteed floorfillers, but the straighter jazz material suffers. "Bye Bye Blackbird" (again, presented twice) is let down by a rhythm section to whom the concept of swing is a mystery. But at least it's short.
After 12 minutes of silence at the album's close, Rahsaan is heard summing up the album in a phone call. "I would like to say bright moments and joy to the universe, to all the beautiful people that might take time out to paste their ears to this very beautiful spinning piece of material...enjoy". Indeed. A mysterious, infuriating yet occasionally wonderful record.