An energy transfusion from Rahsaan Roland Kirk…
Rahsaan Roland Kirk – Bright Moments – Atlantic Records/ PurePleasure / Hi Horse PPAN SD2-907 (2 vinyl set) – 1973 ****1/2:
(Rahsaan Roland Kirk – tenor sax, flute, stritch, manzello, nose flute; Ron Burton – piano; Henry Pearson – bass; Robert Shy – drums; Todd Barkan – synthesizer, tambourine; Joe Habao – percussion)
When inspired by a hip jazz audience in an intimate setting, the inimitable Rahsaan Roland Kirk was a force to be reckoned with. His energy was palpable and his enthusiasm stoked the audience into a frenzy. One of his favorite clubs was San Francisco’s Keystone Korner, owned by Todd Barkan. Unlike many jazz club owners, it was all about the music for Barkan, and not just running up the cover charge with drink minimums.
One of the best live recordings in Kirk’s career was an engagement at the Keystone in 1973, fully documented on two LPs on Bright Moments. That title became a mantra for Rahsaan, as his inspired playing opened the light for his fans until his passing four years after this recording, mostly as a result of a stroke in 1975.
To the casual jazz fan, Rahsaan is most noted for his ability to play several saxophones at the same time with circular breathing and amazing dexterity. He brought the stritch and manzello to the forefront (straight horn versions of the soprano and alto saxes). Kirk could be a soulful highly-melodic player as well as enter full avant-garde with bellowing and screeching. What set his playing apart was that even at his most “open” playing there was still a grounding in a swing feel with blues leanings.
We get the full range of Kirk’s talents on these 2 LPs. On “Pedal Up” Roland takes off with multiple horns and it is an elevator going straight up, like a roller coaster on overdrive. The energy in the crowd shows they know that an “event” was happening. “You’ll Never Get to Heaven” has a quiet storm/acid jazz vibe with pianist Ron Burton channeling Lonnie Liston Smith (Lonnie played with Kirk in 1965) on this funky track.
Throughout the LPs are introductory raps by Rahsaan sharing insights into his music, oftentimes as mini-jazz history lessons. Such is the case with “Clickety Clack” where Kirk muses about Coltrane and Lady Day intersecting with the Beatles and Tom Jones. “Prelude to a Kiss” is gorgeous, while “Fly Town Nose Blues” is out in left field electrified funk as Rahsaan both plays and sings through his nose flute. Think vocals with nitrous.
The title track demonstrates Roland’s phenomenal breath control on flute. New Orleans jazz gets authentic care on “Dem Red Beans and Rice,” Fats Waller’s “Jitterbug Waltz,”and “Second Line Jump.” On “If I Loved You” Roland’s passionate solo is gut-wrenching in its emotional impact.
Wally Heider’s remote engineers did an exemplary job with the club’s acoustics, and Ray Staff’s remastering over forty years later improves the listening experience even more. This may be the must purchase for vinyl fans of Mr. Rahsaan Roland Kirk.
Side One: Introduction, Pedal Up, You’ll Never Get to Heaven
Side Two: Clickety Clack, Prelude to a Kiss, Talk, Fly Town Nose Blues
Side Three: Talk, Bright Moments Song, Dem Red Beans and Rice
Side Four: If I Loved You, Talk, Jitterbug Waltz, Second Line Jump