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Album Review

There are many wonderful ways to get acquainted or stay in touch with the spirit of Rahsaan Roland Kirk. For a truly mind-altering and life-changing listening experience, try this Lone Hill Jazz double-CD reissue of Kirk's amazing performances recorded live at the Club Montmartre in Copenhagen on October 24 and 25, 1963. (Present in the audience on the second night was John Coltrane, who was resting his chops after playing the Tivolis Koncertsal.) Earlier that year, Kirk was working out of Chicago when a promoter from Sweden heard him and suggested a Scandinavian tour. By late September Kirk was in London playing to packed houses at Ronnie Scott's and the Marquee Club. The tour then expanded as Kirk roared through Italy, France, Belgium, Germany and Holland in addition to Sweden and Denmark. Fortunately, Quincy Jones arranged for the Copenhagen Concert to be recorded, preserving for posterity the magical interplay between this joyously driven multi-instrumental Ohioan and the Barcelona-born pianist Tete Montoliu, bassists Don Moore and Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen, and drummer J.C. Moses, who by the end of the decade would serve as the house drummer at Café Montmartre. Two tracks feature special guest blues harmonica legend Sonny Boy Williamson, identified on most previous issues only as 'Big Skol'. The gutsy combination of Kirk and Williamson on "Untitled Blues" and "The Monkey Thing" is a spicy treat that meshes nicely with Williamson's other European and British adventures in the company of Memphis Slim, Eric Clapton, the Yardbirds, and Eric Burdon & the Animals. According to what Kirk says by way of introduction, he and Sonny Boy Williamson had previously gigged together in Milwaukee, which makes their Danish rendezvous somewhat of a reunion jam. Every aspect of Kirk's artistry is documented on the Copenhagen recordings — gorgeous ballads, gleefully reconstituted standards and fiery originals. Essential features are his supreme one-man three-sax and flute adaptation of "Mood Indigo," a bouncing medley that opens with a rousing "Rock-A-Bye Baby" and Kirk's blustery, screaming over-the-top flute solo during "On the Corner of King and Scott Streets." This edition also contains two exciting bonus tracks: a sunny seven-minute version of "A Stritch in Time" recorded live at the 1962 Newport Jazz Festival, and a rare recording of a nearly 15-minute jam on Charlie Parker's "Au Privave," tape recorded by an enterprising amateur at a gig in Berlin on September 24, 1964. In addition to Tete Montoliu, bassist Jimmy Woode, and drummer Kenny Clarke, this steamy blowout features alto saxophonist Sonny Stitt. Those who really love their jazz will want to absorb this track in all its muddy-sounding "bootleg" splendor, as this is the only known recording of Sonny Stitt and Rahsaan Roland Kirk performing together. Don't miss 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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