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Brotherman in the Fatherland

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Album Review

It's very tempting to go off on Joel Dorn for his decision to call a Rahsaan Roland Kirk record recorded live in Germany Brotherman in the Fatherland. Dorn's had questionable taste about all kinds of things since he began running record labels that have had numerous names attached to them — Kirk's music is not one of them. This gig, recorded in 1972, is one of those seemingly out-of-nowhere moments when Kirk, struggling to make a living, took it to the audience full-force. He was accompanied on this tour by longtime pianist Ron Burton, bassist Henry Pearson, drummer Richie Goldberg (who did a long stint with Ray Charles) and Joe Texudor on assorted percussion. The program is pure magic: from "Like Sony" to a bad-ass reworking of the insipid Bread tune "Make It with You," that Kirk turns into pure outre blues soul-jazz, and that's just the beginning. "Rahsaan's Spirit" is the place where Kirk spins off into his own universe with the band — Burton's solo here is particularly telling as the members all solo. Kirk brings it back to a deeply soulful read of "My Girl" with a piano intro that sounds a lot like Roy Bittan's from Bruce Springsteen's "Thunder Road," but it was a couple of years ahead of that milestone. Kirk's nose flute hints the melody line before his flute takes over and runs the melody down to its root; he plays them simultaneously and even vocalizes, à la Charles. The swinging Ramsey Lewis-styled soul riffing gives the audience something else to hold onto before the doors come off with "Seasons/Serenade to a Cuckoo" that digs even deeper as it streams into "Pedals Up," a musically tender reading of "Lush Life," before it all melts down into Coltrane's "Afro Blue" with Kirk on all horns peeling the paint; there's only a brief respite before it goes all the way into jazz heaven with a deeply swinging, blues-drenched crazyland reading of "Blue Trane." Like his best live outings — this one doesn't have the same sound quality as Bright Moments — this one is simply astonishing in its intensity, soul, and acumen. One can only wonder when hearing the polite applause at the end of the gig (instead of the justifiable shouting and screaming that should've been there) if the German crowd were just blown away, or confused. Listeners, too, may wonder if they can believe what has just transpired in the space of an hour. They can. Dorn may be on the questionable side in naming this recording, but he's to be thanked for issuing it.

Biography

Born: 07 August 1935 in Columbus, OH

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '50s, '60s, '70s

Arguably the most exciting saxophone soloist in jazz history, Kirk was a post-modernist before that term even existed. Kirk played the continuum of jazz tradition as an instrument unto itself; he felt little compunction about mixing and matching elements from the music's history, and his concoctions usually seemed natural, if not inevitable. When discussing Kirk, a great deal of attention is always paid to his eccentricities — playing several horns at once, making his own instruments, clowning...
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