Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Roland Kirk - Volunteered Slavery (Atlantic, 1969)

This was the last album before Kirk added "Rahsaan" to his name and his first to really integrate popular music into his his sound. Kirk is playing a battery of reeds and flutes (often at the same time) and he his joined on this album by Charles McGhee on trumpet; Dick Griffin on trombone; Ron Burton on piano; Mickey Tucker on organ; Vernon Martin on bass; Sonny Brown, Jimmy Hopps, Charles Crosby alternating on drums; and a choir on some of the studio tracks. Side one was recorded in the studio and the title track begins the record with Kirk testifying about Civil Rights and sexual healing, before moving on to the gospel flavored "Spirits Up Above" featuring a vocal choir. Stevie Wonder's "My Cherie Amor" has some very lyrical flute work, and then the medley of "Search For the Reason Why" and "I Say A Little Prayer" which focuses on some very dexterous combined reed work. Side two was recorded at the 1968 Newport Jazz Festival and the selections include "One Ton" which spotlight Kirk's percussive vocalized flute playing, combining both mouth and nose flute, before moving into a multi-horn flourish to conclude. Kirk's "Tribute to John Coltrane" strings together "Lush Life," "Afro Blue," and "Bessie's Blues" and proves that while that Kirk was proficient with any number of instruments, tenor saxophone may have been his finest. This medley also has a fine piano interlude from Ron Burton as well. The band wraps things up with a rollicking version of the Kirk original "Three for the Festival" led by a rousing and passionate flute solo. this album is a fine example of the multifaceted nature of Roland Kirk's music, and how he was able to improvise well on both popular and jazz material.

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