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Music DVD Review: Rahsaan Roland Kirk – Live in ’63 & ‘67

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Written by Fumo Verde

I had no idea who Rahsaan Roland Kirk was and was curious as to why in the photo on the DVD cover this kat looked as if he had a whole brass band hanging around his neck. Well, it because he almost does. Kirk is one of those rare and talented individuals who mastered the art of playing a multitude of instruments, some he even created on his own.

This DVD showcases Kirk in three outstanding performances. Live in ‘63 & ‘67 starts out in Belgium and though it was recorded in the fall of 1963 for “Jazz Pour Tous,” it wasn’t broadcast until December of 1964. Kirk played within a quartet (and I call it that because I’m only counting bodies; if I were to count instruments, I would say that Kirk brought his orchestra) featuring bass player Guy Pendersen, drummer Daniel Humair, and Swiss- born pianist Georg Gruntz. The music seems to flow continuously with short, sharp quick edits from one band member to the next, highlighting the interaction between musicians.

Now, not only can Kirk play many instruments, he can play up to three at once. He isn’t the first artist to do this, but he is one of the masters. This kat hit every note with the sharpness of a samurai sword. It didn’t matter if he was playing his flute in “Yesterdays” or all three saxophones in “Three for the Festival” because his notes were right on and screaming. “Moon Song,” “Lover,” and “Milestones” ae also included in this set, which came on strong and ended in style.

The second of these three shows was my favorite. It was recorded for Rolando, a Dutch jazz show that took its name from one of Kirk’s compositions. The setting was a small smoky club in Amersfoort, Netherlands in October of 1963 giving the segment the feel of a live gig. You can see the patrons behind drummer Humair as the show opens from an upper balcony. Throughout the session, the video would cut to audience members during certain segments of solos or the whole band in a big full throttle jam, like in “Bag’s Groove” and “Three for the Festival.” The quartet is the same from the Belgium show and we can see why. Kirk feels comfortable these men in support. “Lover Man” and “There Will Never Be Another You” are also in this set. Once again Kirk impresses his listeners by his playing abilities.

The third show comes from the Kongsberg Jazz Festival in Norway during the summer of 1967, the Summer of Love. Here a different group backs Kirk: Ron Burton on piano, Alex Riel drums and Niels Henning Orsted-Pedersen on bass. The band is placed in front of the audience per the norm, and the camera work isn’t of the best quality, but the music is fantastic. Kirk picked “Blues for Alice,” a Charlie Parker song, to open up with and blew the crowd away. His soulful blasts of notes blended with the rhythm, giving way to a sweet jam that Bird himself would have loved.

Live in ‘63 & ‘67 showcases Kirk who has a sound all his own. A master musician who not only plays many instruments, some at the same time, but plays them all incredibly well. Oh, and did I mention that he is also blind? This man should be a hero to any young, up-and-coming jazz artists for what he has accomplished and how he took the jazz in his mind and transferred it to our ears. This is one of those finds that will catch your attention and open you up into a new sound of what jazz can be.

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