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Prepare Thyself to Deal With a Miracle

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Texture and rhythm are more important here than structure and melody, but Kirk leads his band in a way that no matter how unwieldy the playing becomes, all the parts feel conjoined. Part of that glue comes from the string arrangements, written by Kirk himself. The strings bring the songs a stately resonance, especially on “Salvation & Reminiscing,” a ghetto march with the dark grandeur of the theme from Lawrence of Arabia. Aside from the multitude of instruments through which Kirk blows — including clarinet, nose flute and “black mystery pipes,” in addition to his trusty saxophones — the voices of Dee Dee Bridgewater and Jeanne Lee provide faithful and sometimes ghostly counterpoint to every careening horn line. The album culminates with "Saxophone Concerto," one of the masterworks of Kirk’s career. Kirk introduced the piece by writing that it’s “time for America to discover some of its true Black miracles,” and the piece utilizes a 16-piece band as it shifts through several movements, each highlighting a different form of music, from bebop to tango to free jazz, climaxing in a percussive exorcism that engulfs the listener’s senses.

Prepare Thyself to Deal With a Miracle, Roland Kirk
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