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Reviewers: Don Mather, Tony Augarde, Dick Stafford, John Eyles, Robert Gibson, Ian Lace, Colin Clarke, Jack Ashby

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Kirk’s Work

Prestige 0888072301610




1. Three for Dizzy
2. Makin’ Whoopee
3. Funk Undrrneath
4. Kirk’s Work
5. Doin’ the Sixty-Eight
6. Too Late Now
7. Skater’s Waltz

Roland Kirk – Tenor sax, manzello, stritch, flute, siren

Jack McDuff – Hammond organ

Joe Benjamin – Bass

Arthur Taylor – Drums

Don’t play the fool if you want to be taken seriously. Someone once said that to me and I wisely ignored the advice. Roland Kirk would have ignored it too. Some critics never took him seriously because he often fooled about and even played three reed instruments at once. You might expect this sort of showmanship from a one-man band on a seaside pier or a contestant in some weird talent show but surely not from a serious jazz musician! Yet Roland Kirk was serious about his music – and you can seriously regard him as three or four extremely talented jazz players. He was a tenor-saxist but he also played the flute, plus two strange instruments which he claimed to have found in the basement of a music shop – the manzello and the stritch. In fact at various times he played about a dozen different instruments and invented several more.

This album supplies ample evidence of his virtuosity on all four main instruments. Recorded in 1961, this was one of Roland’s early albums and it stands up many years later for the superb imagination and inventiveness of his playing. Four of the seven tunes are Kirk’s compositions, starting with Three for Dizzy which begins with Roland supplying what sounds like a whole saxophone section behind Jack McDuff’s powerful Hammond organ. McDuff’s bluesy solo is followed by Kirk soloing on tenor with a relaxed feel reminiscent of Lester Young. Joe Benjamin's bass lays down a solid line and Art Taylor's drums add suitable punctuations.

Makin’ Whoopee is the first jazz standard on the CD and has Kirk soloing fluently on tenor sax and manzello. For Funk Underneath, a slowish loping blues, Kirk switches to the flute. His flute-playing influenced many subsequent jazz flautists with its broad range from mellowness to edginess - and the vocal effects which seemed to let him speak through the instrument. For the title-track (another Kirk original), Roland reverts to the tenor sax and then the manzello, blowing hard and bluesily in a style he must have perfected in his earlier years playing with rhythm-and-blues groups. By comparison, McDuff's organ solo sounds restrained. Doin' the Sixty-Eight starts with Kirk on multiple reeds and then develops into fairly laid-back playing on tenor and manzello (one at a time!).

Too Late Now shows Roland's tender side, backed by warm chords from the Hammond organ. He goes into double time for a chorus on manzello, but returns to the tenor and the slower tempo for the closing half-chorus. The album ends with a playful interpretation of Waldteufel's Skater's Waltz, swinging like crazy on tenor, then stritch, then both.

With a playing time of just over 33 minutes, this CD may seem niggardly but Roland Kirk's work contains twice as much input as that of most other players. This album proves that Roland was no fool, but a significant musician who deserves not to be underestimated.

Tony Augarde


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