Roland Kirk: Domino
Kirk’s arsenal includes two unusual instruments, the manzello (sort of like a soprano sax) and the stritch (like a mellow alto), in addition to tenor, flute, and the occasional siren whistle, usually to introduce a piano solo. His simultaneous two- and three-horn work led some to dismiss him as a gimmick player, which was absurd, for what’s astonishing about the technique is its sheer musicality in Kirk’s hands. Need to ratchet up the intensity over a pedal point or during a solo? Add another horn or two and you’ve got an instant one-man shout chorus. (Check out his faster-than-usual reading of J.J. Johnson’s "Lament" for a good example of this.) And mind you, this is not mere noisemaking — his note choices, whether unisons or two- and three-part harmonies, make perfect sense.
Indeed, for a musician often thought of as incurably odd and left-of-center, Kirk’s rootedness in tradition couldn’t be clearer on Domino. On tenor he sounds not unlike Sonny Rollins; his flute work surely influenced Thomas Chapin. On the fast minor blues "Rolando" he plays a stritch solo full of exemplary post-bop lines. "E.D.," the last of the original 10 tracks, is a furiously fast reworking of "Tea for Two." At least at this stage, Kirk’s playing was far more inside than Ornette Coleman’s, for instance.
Perhaps this reissue will prompt a reappraisal of Kirk’s importance. As someone who took the tradition seriously and yet created something entirely new from it, he has a great deal to say to today’s like-minded younger generation of players.
Track Listing: 1. Domino 2. Meeting on Termini
Personnel: Roland Kirk, tenor saxophone, manzello, stritch, flute, nose flute, siren whistle; Vernon Martin, bass; Andrew Hill, piano (tracks 1-6, celeste on track 3); Wynton Kelly, piano (tracks 7-10); Herbie Hancock, piano (tracks 11-25); Henry Duncan, drums (tracks 1-6); Roy Haynes, drums (tracks 7-25)
Record Label: Verve Music Group