Rahsaan Roland Kirk is one of my favorite musicians. Known for his unique ability to play several saxophones, or something akin to a saxophone, at the same time, Rahsaan made music that defied convention and explored new territory, building on the roots of jazz. He was blind yet his blindness allowed him to “see” and hear new musical frontiers. Rahsaan is an under appreciated genius who left a large recorded legacy of music, all of which is well worth investigating.
Bright Moments-The Life And Legacy of Rahsaan Roland Kirk, is the definitive text on Mr. Kirks life and career, and what an amazing story it is. You get it all in this book, Kirk’s development as a jazz artist, his struggles as a blind man, his frustration with record companies, the nasty stroke he suffered later in life that robbed him of some of his ability. This is an astounding story and a fascinating read if you are inclined to venture into the reality and imagination of Rahsaan Roland Kirk.
Chapter Six, entitled The Black Stick, details his love of the clarinet, and of course not only does this chapter reveal a great deal about his musical roots, but it sheds light on what a studied and thoroughly well versed musician this man was.
To fully understand Rahsaan Roland Kirk you have to listen intently to his music. A great place to start is the fabulous two disc set on Rhino Records Does Your House Have Lions, The Rahsaan Roland Kirk Anthology. A favorite of mine from this set is Ain’t No Sunshine, the Bill Withers classic, that features one of his favorite devices……he actually sings the melody through the flute! Rahsaan claims in the book that Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull fame ripped off many his original flute devices. On this track it’s hard not to believe him. There is so much great material on this set, and it’s chock full of the many percussion effects and vocal rants that Rahsaan was famous for. Just check out Volunteered Slavery, with Rahsaan pushing back against the establishment, advocating hard for Civil Rights, moving the music and the Black Movement forward, that’s what this music is about. A powerful and soulful blend of many different genres, any jazz fan or listener with eclectic tastes will find things here to enjoy. In some respects the jam band genre that took root in the 1990’s can be traced back to Rahsaan’s music.
Probably the most important recording Rahsaan Roland Kirk ever made is The Three Sided Dream In Audio Color. The relevant chapter regarding this document in the book begins on Page 290. In seven pages you will discover how and why the first true concept album came into existence. I remember being thoroughly blown away by this recording when I first came across it in high school.
The Three Sided Dream In Audio Color is a psychedelic exploration of jazz music that is one of the finest examples of what Rahsaan called Black Classical Music ever recorded. It will change your life and open your heart, mind and ears to things you’ve have not yet imagined. Find yourself a copy and turn it up loud, and let it wash over you in a dark room. Welcome to The Dream.
When I moved to New York City in 1990 I found this framed drawing for sale by a street artist on Broadway and 110th Street. I think I paid $5 for it then. It is one of my cherished possessions.
Rahsaan Roland Kirk often describes experiences in his life as “Bright Moments.” I have long been fascinated by this article that appeared in the August 15th, 1974 edition of Downbeat Magazine where Rahsaan reveals his ideas about Bright Moments…….the one I love the most is this……….
“Bright Moments was like waking up one morning and going downstairs and picking up my two horns and being able to play two different melodies at the same time and putting it on tape and hearing the results and BEING SCARED!” This is an amazing article!!!!!
This clip of Rahsaan is an incredible document showing him playing multiple horns at once.
The vibrations that Rahsaan Roland Kirk sent into the ether during his life continue to reverberate throughout the galaxy. A mystic, musician, visionary and a genius, Rahsaan Roland Kirk should never be forgotten. His contributions to jazz and his philosophies and critiques of life as a Black Man in the United States are as relevant today as they were decades ago. Got get you some Rahsaan Roland Kirk.
Thanks for stopping by my Blog.....Markos