The Case of the Three Sided Dream, Blu-ray (2016)

Cast: Rahsaan Roland Kirk, Joel Dorn, Steve Torre
Director: Adam Kahan
Studio: Arthaus Music  109252 (8/26/16)
Video: for 16:9 screens, HD color 1080p
Audio: English DTS-HD MA 5.1
Subtitles: English SDH, German, French
Extras: Joel Dorn (DJ) talks about Rahsaan; Bright Moments – performed live at Ken Kesey’s, 1977
Length: 107 min.
Rating: ****

Rahsaan Roland Kirk, who died in 1977, was a genuinely unique artist who did not use his multi-instruments capability as a “gimmick” in any way. His technical and aesthetic abilities are unimpeachable. He had a delightful sense of humor and great social consciousness. He was blinded in early childhood by the nurse putting too much silver nitrate in his eyes. He says his name of Rahsaan came to him from God in a dream (dreams were very important to him), but it was actually his birth middle name. He was not a Black Muslim.

Rahsaan liked to call jazz “black classical music” and he had an amazing knowledge of music history. This is a wonderful portrait of a remarkable man and musician, though it is unfortunate that Yusef Lateef – with which he often performed – is not included in the film along with DJ Joel Dorn. There are many comments about his life and death from his widow, and it seems like his comments and clips and titles are put together so it seems like Rahsaan Roland Kirk is speaking to the view of the documentary. I hadn’t known about his stroke, after which we only played his reed instruments with his left hand.

Rahsaan and his followers made a big protest during a Dick Cavett Show to get more TV attention to black artists and after that he was on the Ed Sullivan Show, which is seen here. The comment of trombonist Steve Torre are especially pertinent.  The musical clips are well-chosen and perfectly adept. This is quite a different sort of documentary and well worth viewing.

—John Henry




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