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Editors’ Notes

For his second studio album for Atlantic, Roland Kirk was paired with a full-scale orchestra. With his blustery and mercurial disposition, Kirk was an odd choice for an orchestra. But as usual, he rose to the challenge and delivered a set of performances that highlight his vulnerability (a quality often overlooked when people discuss this indefatigable saxophonist). His reading of Charles Mingus’ “IX Love” shows the natural affinity between the two strong-willed but highly sensitive musicians, while the interpretation of Billy Strayhorn’s “A Flower Is a Lovesome Thing” is spine-tingling, second only to Johnny Hodges’ legendary original. The ballads “Quintessence” and “I Waited for You” owe much to Hodges, whose pining tone brought melodies to life in a manner usually reserved for vocalists. While Kirk was famous for playing multiple instruments at once, here he sticks mostly to a single tenor saxophone, as if to disprove persistent criticisms that his use of horns was just a gimmick. The exception is the 19-minute “Expansions,” a boiling cauldron of a song into which Kirk throws every last one of his ideas.


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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