It must have been something to catch a live performance by Rahsaan Roland Kirk. Of course he plays multiple instruments at the same time on albums, but wouldn't it have been cool to actually see
him do it? Unfortunately, this trick tended to obscure Kirk's talents as an improviser and composer in some circles, as his detractors labeled him a sideshow instead of a serious musician.
Brotherman In the Fatherland, a 1972 concert recording from Germany's Funkhaus, will help cement Kirk's reputation as a jazz musician of considerable merit. For one thing, there's less of the multi-instrumental prowess that many other recordings feature. Throughout, Kirk mainly plays one instrument, usually tenor saxophone, on lengthy improvisations that cover the range of what he was up to at the time: synthesizing the entire spectrum of musical history in wildly unpredictable and entertaining solos. In addition to Kirk's original composition "Serenade to A Cuckoo, rendered delicately (for Kirk, anyway) on flute, the pieces include an obligatory pop tune, "My Girl, and a fiery run through "Lush Life, "Afro Blue and "Blue Train to finish out the disc.
Kirk brings his considerable skills on multiple instruments to the fore (including, of course, the nose flute), backed by a stellar group of musicians who seem content to let the leader cut loose and do as he pleases. Kirk was firmly planted in the avant-garde, blowing out squalls of notes and seemingly endless phrases to create incredibly dense music with just a quartet at his disposal.
There's precious little live Kirk out there, and Brotherman In the Fatherland is a welcome issue of a concert that had circulated as a bootleg for years. While I find Kirk's work at times frustrating and uneven, this disc is a fine example of maverick musicianship from one of jazz's true oddballs.
Personnel: Rahsaan Roland Kirk: flute, clarinet, stritch, manzello, tenor saxophone; Ron Burton: piano; Henry Pete Pearson "Mettathias": bass ; Richie Goldberg: drums; Joe "Habao" Texidor: percussion.