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Roland Kirk: Kirk In Copenhagen

David Rickert By

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To fully appreciate his artistry, Roland Kirk truly needed to be experienced live. Sure, playing three instruments at once is an incredible feat, but wouldn't it be great to have seen it? Unfortunately for most of us, we can only be satisfied with recordings such as this one from Club Montmarte, Denmark's famous jazz club.

Live, Kirk barrels through tunes with an almost reckless abandon, making judicious use of the noisemaking possibilities of his various instruments and firing out long, squalling passages made possible by the circular breathing he mastered. Kirk was a performer who was very sympathetic to his audience, injecting humor through bawdy lyrics and the occasional nose flute licks and, this being an earlier recording, little of the politicizing that became his passion later on.

Overall this is a prime example of Kirk's gifts as a musician. He was often criticized for being a carnival act, and certainly his ability to multitask brought out the showman in him in front of interested parties. But he was also a crafty improviser as well, and tunes like "Mingus-Griff Song" show his dedication to preserving the legacy of jazz by stitching all its manifestations into a patchwork quilt of influences.

This 1963 date is a good representation of Kirk's work, but it has a couple of drawbacks. First, the sidemen seem under rehearsed, not having fully absorbed Kirk's method and hanging on by their fingernails whenever he solos, seeming to breathe a sigh of relief when he takes a break. Also, the levels aren't balanced: the drums are overmiked and the piano lacks the presence it requires.

But one of the joys of jazz is bringing together musicians from different backgrounds—different countries, even—and watching the interplay that follows no matter what occurs. When it comes right down to it, all musicians speak the same language, and in the end this was the message that Kirk was preaching all along.


Track Listing: 1. Narrow Bolero 2. Mingus-Griff Song 3. The Monkey Thing 4. Mood Indigo 5. Cabin in the Sky 6. On the Corner of King and Scott Streets.

Personnel: Roland Kirk - tenor saxophone, manzello, stritch, flute, nose flute, and/or siren whistle; Tete Montoliu - piano; Niels-Henning

Title: Kirk In Copenhagen | Year Released: 2004 | Record Label: Verve Music Group

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