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Roland Kirk: The Limelight/Verve Albums (4 LPs)(#3006)Mosaic Singles
While “Slightly Latin” and “Now Please Don’t Cry, Beautiful Edith” are excellent albums, “Spirits” and “Rip, Rig And Panic” were two of Roland’s proudest moments in a recording studio and remains two peaks among his many achievements.
Limited Edition: 3500 copies
4 LPs (180 gram) - $75.00
Born August 7, 1936 in Columbus, Ohio, Roland Kirk grew up to become one of the most all-encompassing and unique virtuosos in jazz
Born essentially blind (his eyes could distinguish light), he showed an early desire to try to make music from things such as the end of a water hose. His first real instrument, at age 9, was the trumpet, but his doctor felt that it put too much pressure on his eyes, so he switched to saxophone and clarinet. He was a natural musician and a fast learner who was playing professional gigs while still in high school.
He dreamt at age 16 that he was playing three instruments at once. In a local music store, he soon found two rare oddities: a manzello which is a Spanish variant of the soprano sax with a bent, flaired bell and a stritch, which was essentially a straight alto sax with a large bell at the end. He worked out his own false fingerings to be able to play three-part harmony on the three saxophones. At age 23, he made his first album for King Records in Cincinnati. That label was the home of James Brown and other great R & B acts and Kirk's album quickly became a rare collector's item. He progressed quickly and became well known in Chicago where he made his second album for Argo in 1960 at the behest of Ramsey Lewis. He ventured to New York in 1961 making an album for Prestige Records with organist Jack McDuff. The war between the pro-Kirk and anti-Kirk factions in the musical and critical communities was taking shape. Genius or gimmick-laden huckster? History fell on the side of genius.
At The Height Of His Powers
In 1964, Mercury announced Limelight, a new subsidiary with incredibly elaborate packaging. Roland moved to the new label and recorded what could be called his first concept record. He left all the saxophones at home and recorded an entire album on a variety of flutes. "I Talk With The Spirits" added vibist Bobby Moses to his quartet with Miss C. J. Albert's wordless vocal on two tunes. The material was all geared to the flute but ranged from the lyrical to the funky. Roland's kick-off original, the irresistible "Serenade To A Cuckoo" became a radio hit. The whole album is a coherent and beautiful statement.
To see Kirk live was like having a safe seat at the core of a typhoon and witnessing a force of nature facilely draw upon the entire history of jazz with dazzling energy, humor and imagination. That was glimpsed on 1963's "Kirk In Copenhagen," but the intensity that was Kirk and his music was not properly captured until an all-star studio album "Rip, Rig And Panic," made at Rudy Van Gelder's studio. The rhythm section of Jaki Byard, Richard Davis and Elvin Jones was a dream team for Roland. These were men who could follow him anywhere in a heartbeat and who meshed musically on the highest plane. They were, quite simply, on his level. This studio album packed all the power and energy of Roland Kirk live, moving effortless from New Orleans to swing to bop to free form to musique concrete.
Kirk's final Limelight album was no less ambitious though it was a clear attempt to cross over into more popular radio formats. Kirk and arranger Garnett Brown add brass and percussion to the mix for "Slightly Latin" which also includes the Coleridge Perkinson choir on three tracks. Two pop tunes are covered, a smokin' "Walk On By" and the Beatles' "And I Love Her." The rest is densely textured originals on which Roland plays a fair amount of baritone sax with the grace and power he brings to any reed instrument.
Before committing to an exclusive contract with Atlantic Records in 1967, he made one album for Creed Taylor at Verve. This would be his third and final album at the Van Gelder studio. "Now Please Don't Cry, Beautiful Edith" is a celebrated quartet affair with Lonnie Liston Smith on piano, Ronnie Boykins on bass and the indefatigable Grady Tate on drums. The program is mostly originals, but with a wide variety of grooves and melodic material. Fittingly, it kicks off with a beautiful Ellingtonian original blues "Blue Rol" which is a rare feature for Roland on clarinet.
Roland's collaborations with producer Joel Dorn on Atlantic would soon take a more conceptual shape and a variety of settings and themes. These four mid-sixties gems capture Roland Kirk at the height of his powers with his identity fully formed in four wonderful contexts.
This is the first Mosaic set to be pressed at Chad Kassem's Quality Record Pressings in Salina, Kansas. About the pressings coming out of QRP, Michael Fremer wrote on TrackingAngle.com," all I can say is THIS IS INCREDIBLE!!!!!! The sonics are spectacular and the pressing quality is as good as has ever been pressed in my opinion. The backgrounds are dead, black, silent the way Japanese pressings used to come on JVC 'Supervinyl!' and believe me it doesn't get any better than that, though this may even be richer, darker and blacker."
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