Roland Kirk – Third Dimension – Bethlehem/ Pure Pleasure BCP6064 – mono audiophile vinyl (1956) ****:
(Roland Kirk – tenor sax; Manzello, Stritch; James Madison – piano; Carl Pruitt – bass; Henry Duncan – drums)
Originally titled Triple Threat when first issued on King Records, Roland Kirk’s first album was later issued as Third Dimension, (in a limited edition just prior to Kirk’s passing) when Bethlehem Records issued the mono LP. Though less than 30 minutes, this album holds significance as it is the first chance to hear Kirk tackle three horns at the same time, for which he became well-noted.
Roland’s playing in 1956 was grounded in rhythm and blues as opposed to later in his career when he went into much “freer” directions. Listening to Kirk on this LP, I heard some of the precursors to early rock n’ roll with honking horns, R & B beats, and a heavy dose of straight ahead blues. It is hard to tell when, and if, there are overdubs of the Stritch and Manzello, or if it is Kirk playing all three saxophones at once.
Song selection is a mix of standards (“The Nearness of You” and “Stormy Weather”) and some funky blues (“Roland’s Groove,” “Slow Groove” and “Triple Threat”). On “Easy Living” Roland plays the lead on the Manzello, while on “Stormy Weather” counter melodies are encountered on the Stritch and Manzello.
Engineer Ray Staff has done a nice job remixing the mono tracks. The rhythm section is mostly unremarkable, deferring to their leader, though you’ll find some nice piano lines by pianist James Madison on “Slow Groove.” Fans of Roland Kirk (pre-Rahsaan) will find a lot to like here in tracking Kirk’s development into the dynamo that he was in his prime.
Side 1: Roland’s Theme, Slow Groove, Stormy Weather
Side 2: The Nearness of You, A La Carte, Easy Living, Triple Threat