Award-winning baritone saxophonist Claire Daly
isn't blowing her own horn on Rah! Rah!
(well, she is, but more about that in a moment)she's saluting one of her musical inspirations, the late Rahsaan Roland Kirk
, a once-in-a-blue- moon talent who left us far too soon. Kirk, who lived only forty-two years, was quite literally a multi-instrumentalist, often playing two or three horns at the same time, some of which (manzello, stritch) he invented himself. Even though blind, he was part musical prodigy, part comedian, part social activist and pure genius, and anyone who dismissed him as a novelty act simply wasn't paying attention. Above all, Kirk was a jazz maven with a stentorian voice who recorded more than thirty innovative albums under his name. In other words, he was a super-versatile jazz artist who could really play.
He certainly impressed Daly who first heard Kirk on his album Return of the 5000 Lb. Man,
released only a year before Kirk's passing in December 1977 (he would have turned eighty-five in August 2020). Daly was a teen-ager then, a student at the Berklee College of Music in Boston who hadn't yet decided to pursue a career as a jazz musicianthat is, until she heard Kirk play. Instead of spending her summer break in New York City that year, she remained in Boston to see an ailing Kirk (who'd had a stroke) perform at the Jazz Workshop. Daly attended every show, sitting as close to the master as possible. "He had this unstoppable quality," she recalls. "He was such a force of nature. I was in awe of him. He made me so happy, and still does."
Daly refreshes and amplifies that happiness on Rah! Rah!
, interlacing five of Kirk's singular compositions with two of her own to complement Frank Foster
's shapely "Simone," Charlie Parker
's buoyant "Blues for Alice" and a pair of well-known standards, Burt Bacharach / Hal David's "Alfie" and Sammy Fain / Irving Kahal's "I'll Be Seeing You." As a nod to Kirk's flexibility, Daly trades the baritone for a flute on three numbers ("Serenade to a Cuckoo," "Simone" and her own "Momentus Brighticus," a contrafact of Kirk's "Bright Moments") and sings on two ("Alfie" and Sly Stone's "Everyday People," which is coupled with Kirk's "Volunteered Slavery"). Daly also wrote the groove-drenched opener, "Blue Lady," and, a la Kirk, adds a bar or two of "baritonus screamicus" on "Volunteered Slavery" and "Simone."
Impressive as Daly is on flute (the vocals are passable but no more than that), it is the half-dozen numbers wherein her baritone holds sway that comprise the album's high points. Daly has meticulously crafted her voice on the horn, one that is not only bold and resourceful but astutely set apart from much of what is being heard these days (for comparison's sake, think Serge Chaloff
). Daly wields the bari like a scalpel, slicing to the core of every number to undrape and brighten its inner charm. Even so, she can't do it alone; every star, no matter how radiant, needs an earnest and efficient supporting cast, which Daly has in pianist Eli Yamin
, bassist Dave Hofstra
and drummer Peter Grant
, who not only play their ancillary roles to perfection but solo perceptively whenever the opportunity arises. Daly and her able teammates have designed an admirable tribute to an undervalued jazz virtuoso whose remarkable music and persona clearly deserve a second season in the sun.
Blue Lady; Serenade to a Cuckoo; Volunteered Slavery/Everyday People; Simone; Funk Underneath; Theme for the Eulipions; Alfie; Momentus Brighticus; Blues for Alice; I'll Be Seeing You