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Rahsaan Roland Kirk: Brotherman to the Fatherland

Kurt Gottschalk By

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Of all the people trying to put jazz on the pop charts in the anything-goes period of the late '60s and early '70s—all the way up to Albert Ayler, for the love of Pete—probably the most successful at bridging the gap without watering it down was Rahsaan Roland Kirk. Long before the Steven Bernsteins and JA Granellis of the world were inflecting pop covers with jazz energy (and ignoring the instrumental and lethargic pop renditions of his contemporaries), Kirk was making exciting, full-throttle versions of some great—and unlikely—radio hits of the day.

That's far from the only notable thing about Kirk, who freely borrowed from any number of styles to create his own branding of black music. But as Joel Dorn—Kirk's producer during his years at Atlantic, where he recorded his best albums—continues to dig up unreleased live tapes, that is what stands out. Kirk died almost thirty years ago at the age of 41, and we're fortunate to have a healthy stock of his work available, with no small debt of gratitude to Dorn. But as the titles continue to come, there needs to be something to sell them. And finding something that measures up to the 21-minute "Saxophone Concerto on Prepare Thyself to Deal With a Miracle (Atlantic, 1973) would itself be miraculous.

The supporting band on Brotherman (pianist Ron Burton, bassist Henry Peter Pearson and percussionists Richie Goldberg and Joe "Habao Texidor) is solid, if not his strongest. There are moments of pure Rahsaan idiosyncrasy, as on "Seasons/Serenade to a Cuckoo, and powerful extended playing on "Pedal Up.

But that ain't where the party's at. What was going on in the Fatherland was like this: Opening with Coltrane's "Like Sonny and plowing straight into Bread's "Make It With You, a seven-minute bop excursion ("Rahsaan's Spirit ) and Smokey Robinson's "My Girl, the band hits two more Kirk comps and then a slightly forced "Lush Life, a rolling version of Mongo Santamaria's largely Trane-identified "Afro Blue, and a powerful closing take of Coltrane's "Blue Trane. Essential? I dunno. But it's a joy. Being in possession of a time machine would be the best, and perhaps the only reason for not checking this recording out.


Track Listing: Intro/Like Sonny; Make It With You; Rahsaan' Spirit; My Girl; Seasons / Serenade to a Cuckoo; Pedal Up; Lush Life; Afro Blue; BLue Trane.

Personnel: Ron Burton: piano; Henry Peter Pearson "Merrathias": bass; Richie Goldberg: drums; Joe "Havao" Texidor: percussion.

Title: Brotherman to the Fatherland | Year Released: 2006 | Record Label: Hyena Records

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