Sunday, September 09, 2012

Rahsaan Roland Kirk - Spirits Up Above (Rhino, 2012)

Despite being blinded as an infant, Rahsaan Roland Kirk developed an innate sense of playing saxophones and flutes, and used this skill to develop a unique and personal style of playing several instruments at one time in an extraordinary display of virtuosity. Kirk recorded with the Mercury and Limelight labels from 1961-1965, before signing to Atlantic Records and having a lengthy tenure at that label, lasting until 1976. This two disc collection is a selection of Kirk's recordings for Atlantic, studio and live recordings ranging from string drenched ballads to stratospheric uptempo cookers. The music on this collection is presented in vaguely chronological order, beginning with three very strong tracks from The Inflated Tear LP of 1968. "The Black and Crazy Blues" and "The Inflated Tear" show Kirk playing smears of sound through his multiple horns, developing very emotional textures. "Lovellevelliloqui" is a scalding and searing fast performance, with Kirk riffing on multiple horns and soloing on tenor saxophone. Kirk would often sing or chant or offer up some vocal encouragement ant that is typified on tracks like "Volunteered Slavery," "Blacknuss" (each the title of individual Kirk LPs) and the gospel tinged "Spirits Up Above." The presence of John Coltrane also looms large over this period with "A Tribute To John Coltrane," a three song medley of songs associated with Coltrane and the original "Something for Trane That Trane Could have Said." Disc two isn't quite as well selected as the excellent first disc but does have some highlights of its own like the Ellington tribute "Carney and Begard Place" and the roaring fast paced "Pedal Up" taken live from the Keystone Corner in San Francisco. After his tenure with Atlantic Record, Kirk would record a few albums for Warner Brothers despite suffering a debilitating stroke. No matter what life threw at him, Kirk rose above the challenges and continued to make music. There is a solid selection of his best in this collection. Spirits Up Above -

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