Roland Kirk with Jack McDuff
Kirk's Work - Rahsaan Roland Kirk's third long-player - teams him up with organist "Brother" Jack McDuff for Kirk's most soulful post-bop set to date. His unorthodox performance style incorporates the polyphonies of a tenor sax, flute, manzello, and stritch. The latter instrument is Kirk's own modification of a second-generation B-flat soprano sax. This contributes to the unique sonic textures and overtones Kirk creates when playing two - and often three - of those lead instruments simultaneously. The loose and soulful nature of McDuff's Hammond organ lends itself to the swinging R&B vibe pervasive throughout the album. Completing the quartet is Joe Benjamin (bass) and Art Taylor (drums) - both veteran jazzmen in their own right. They lend their expertise as well as innate sense of rhythm to the up-tempo "revival meetin'" rendition of Sammy Kahn's "Makin' Whoopee" as well as the ominous swing of the title track. This is also an ideal showcase for Benjamin and Taylor's running counterpoint that glides throughout - supporting soloists Kirk and McDuff. Of the four original Kirk compositions, "Doin' the Sixty-Eight" is arguably the strongest. The percussive rhythms weave a hypnotic Latin groove over which Kirk and McDuff both snake some highly cerebral solos. The stellar interpretation of "Skater's Waltz" combines a well-known traditional melody with some of the most aggressive interaction from the quartet. The tune is put through its paces and the tenor sax/Hammond organ leads bounce around like a game of sonic ping pong. The more aggressive performance style that Kirk would later incorporate definitely shows signs of development on Kirk's Work. While certainly not the best in his catalog, it is a touchstone album that captures the early soulful Rahsaan Roland Kirk.
- Lindsay Planer (All Music Guide)
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The first thing Roland Kirk ever tried to get music out of was a water hose. That was when he was six years old. His parents were counselors at a summer camp near Columbus, Ohio, where he comes from, and "I wanted to be the bugle boy".
Ever since that timp he has gone along pretty much his way, in spite of frequent jibes from the hippies, with his own strongly personal ideas of what will make music and what will not Kirk, as by now almost everyone knows, is the man who can play three instruments at once. Because he does so, he has had to contend with people who expect him to be some sort of freak sideshow act more suitablg to the Ted Mack Amateur Hour than some of the best jazz rooms in the country. But that opinion, one learns, is primarily reserved for those who have only heard about him. Horace Parian, who was Kirk's pianist on his most recent New York engagement says, "It's not a gimmick. He's very serious about what he's doing."
Because I had been unable to hear him during his New York engagement Kirk played for me the afternoon we met. Often, he will start a set in a club by playing two or three horns without the rhythm section. I heard Monk's Mood and Let's Call This on unaccompanied tenor and manzello, on which he was incredibly able to execute perfectly all the difficult Monk harmonies. Then for an encore, he did a complex, fiercely swinging version of God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen on which he inserted, as he does here on Three For Dizzy, a brief quote from John Lewis' The Golden Striker. "At a certain point in a solo," Kirk says "It settles things down."
The four originals on this record are Kirk compositions. Three For Dizzy iq so-called because of the number of horns used, and he has another piece called Two For Count. He has a varied repertoire, which ranges from most of the better-known jazz originals to unlikely pieces like Skater's Waltz, which may be getting its first jazz treatment here. "Wherever we go," his wife says, "We spend all our time in music stores looking for old sheet music."
Kirk is very pleased with the three New York musicians who made this record with him. Joe Benjamin and Art Taylor constitute a rhythm section which should please anyone. Of working with regular Prestige organist Jack McDuff, Kirk hopes that perhaps some of McDuff's many fans will become aware of him throught his record, and says, "I played just like it was a piano."
"I hope you got a happy feeling when you listened," Kirk said. And perhaps, in that statement, he hag said more about what makes him an enjoyable musician than if he played sixty horns.