rahsaan roland kirk

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Rahsaan Roland Kirk: Brotherman in the Fatherland (Hyena/Southbound

Rahsaan Roland Kirk: Brotherman in the Fatherland (Hyena/Southbound

Kirk, who died almost 30 years ago, was one of those musicians who divided jazz critics: some thought he was a showman-cum-charlatan (he could play three saxophones simultaneously) and others thought he was something close to a genius. I head cautiously more toward the latter, although he did often seem to be pulling tricks of a bag to...

RAHSAAN ROLAND KIRK (1936-77): Just a wild'n'crazy guy?

RAHSAAN ROLAND KIRK (1936-77): Just a wild'n'crazy guy?

Nobody talks about Rahsaan Roland Kirk much anymore. Maybe it’s because his recording career was too erratic, maybe because this sometimes fright-inducing multi-instrumentalist (literally, he could play three saxophones simultaneously) went kinda strange from time to time. You know what some listeners are like – they are dullards...

AMIRI BARAKA/LE ROI JONES: A black critic in the black arts

AMIRI BARAKA/LE ROI JONES: A black critic in the black arts

Nobody talks about Amiri Baraka these days, despite the fact he’s still alive*, still writing and still irritating the hell out of people. That’s called doing God’s work. The last time he was sighted in the public domain was in that Warren Beatty movie, Bulworth. He had a bit-part playing a street bum-cum-guardian angel to...

ORNETTE COLEMAN AND THE NAKED LUNCH SOUNDTRACK (1991): Something else, again

ORNETTE COLEMAN AND THE NAKED LUNCH SOUNDTRACK (1991): Something else, again

Movie director David Cronenberg was a gutsy guy, asking Ornette Coleman to play on the soundtrack for his inspired but ultimately flawed realisation of crusty old Bill Burroughs’ Naked Lunch. Ornette Coleman was the perfect choice, of course – eccentric and of Burroughs’ period, he'd spent time in those hills above Tangiers...

THELONIOUS MONK AND JOHN COLTRANE IN 1957: Genius loves company

THELONIOUS MONK AND JOHN COLTRANE IN 1957: Genius loves company

Thelonious Sphere Monk was one of the most gifted -- and eccentric -- of all jazz musicians. The memorably named pianist/composer, who died in 1982 aged 64, helped define the bebop movement and his quirky, angular compositions are among the most memorable in jazz. To drive them home he gave them titles such as Epistrophy, Humph,...

PHAROAH SANDERS INTERVIEWED (2004): Creative man without a masterplan

PHAROAH SANDERS INTERVIEWED (2004): Creative man without a masterplan

Pharoah Sanders proves to be not the easiest of interview subjects. But if he has a poor phone manner and doesn't sound interested in talking, you tend to forgive him because he's a jazz genius. Or at least an occasional genius, although one who has consistently alienated critics. Maybe because he has rushed in and is about to rush out we...

THE BIRTH OF BEBOP -- A SOCIAL AND MUSICAL HISTORY by SCOTT DEVEAUX

THE BIRTH OF BEBOP -- A SOCIAL AND MUSICAL HISTORY by SCOTT DEVEAUX

Suggesting that this engrossing, historically investigative and anecdotally amusing book should be reviewed because it asked the question, "Was bebop jazz a revolution or simply a musical evolution?" drew the response: "Yep, that's a question that keeps most people awake at nights." Fair enough. But in these scrupulously...

JOHN COLTRANE AND MILES DAVIS: Genius at work and playing, 1955-61

JOHN COLTRANE AND MILES DAVIS: Genius at work and playing, 1955-61

For two people about to write themselves into music history, their credentials were not promising. Only a few years previously, the trumpeter was so hooked on heroin that he was almost unemployable and would often fail to show for concerts. The other was a little-known saxophonist whose career was sound but unspectacular. He had played...

CHET BAKER REMEMBERED: The long journey into night

CHET BAKER REMEMBERED: The long journey into night

Trumpeter Chet Baker's death in 1988 was tragic -- but, at 59, he was lucky to have lived so long. A brilliant stylist whose work in Gerry Mulligan's piano-less quartet in the early Fifties -- and whose recordings in Paris shortly afterwards -- are worth serious investigation, Baker modelled himself on Miles Davis at his most ineffably cool....

THELONIOUS MONK; THE LIFE AND TIMES OF AN AMERICAN ORIGINAL by ROBIN D.G. KELLEY

THELONIOUS MONK; THE LIFE AND TIMES OF AN AMERICAN ORIGINAL by ROBIN D.G. KELLEY

In late November 1963, a 5000 word profile of Thelonious Monk was scheduled to appear in Time magazine. Monk was to be the cover. An interviewer and jazz aficionado Barry Farrell from Time had spent months with Monk watching him at work and relaxing at home with his family, and the Russian painter Boris Chaliapin had been commissioned to...

Gil Scott-Heron: I'm New Here (XL)

Gil Scott-Heron: I'm New Here (XL)

When Gil Scott-Heron -- the American poet, activist and conscience of his nation from the Vietnam years to the Reagan era -- was jailed for cocaine in 2001, then again in ‘06 and ‘07, it seemed it was going to be the beginning of a slow, sad end for one of the most important voices out of black America. If he had done nothing...

Jaga Jazzist: One Armed Bandit (Ninja Tune/Border)

Jaga Jazzist: One Armed Bandit (Ninja Tune/Border)

In which our Norwegian big band of jazz-and-elsewhere players borrow heftily from all comers (epic soundtracks and European art films, minimalists, Afrobeat, jazz-rock) and deliver something of a quilt of jazzy colours. They say it is "Zappa-esque, more humorous prog-rock" but in its scale and changing moods, much of it...

FREEDOM, RHYTHM AND SOUND: Jazz with a raised fist and a copy of Malcolm X speeches in the other hand

FREEDOM, RHYTHM AND SOUND: Jazz with a raised fist and a copy of Malcolm X speeches in the other hand

Few people today -- musicians included -- consider rock or jazz as “political”, even in the broadest sense of the word. Yet back in the late 60s and through the 70s large areas of both certainly were. Less than a year after that remarkable year 1968 (student demonstrations, assassinations, political oppression and...

CHRIS BOWDEN (2002): His slightly askew career

CHRIS BOWDEN (2002): His slightly askew career

Sometimes reviewers find words lifted from their articles as a banner for promotion. Film companies seem the main offenders in this: l’ve sometimes written unfavourable reviews of a movie only to see a few judiciously selected words like “an emotional rollercoaster ride” lifted out of a sentence which in full read,...

CECIL TAYLOR IN 1990: Florescent flights

CECIL TAYLOR IN 1990: Florescent flights

Genius is the word a lot of people use about Cecil Taylor – but words get pretty debased these days. (“Genius, that‘s like brilliant - but better, yeah?” ) So let’s just say Cecil Taylor is different and interesting. Way back in the Fifties they used to debate whether his abstract speedthrash...

Zirkus: Sirius Music (iiii)

Zirkus: Sirius Music (iiii)

Wellington certainly throws up some interesting, if not always convincing, improvising artists who edge towards the free jazz idiom but rather hit a default position of swing-cum-Dixie with some slightly self-conscious moments. This one -- recorded live in Happy and on the iiii label -- shows that the spirit of the old Braille label and...

ALBERT AYLER: Opening the door to the future

ALBERT AYLER: Opening the door to the future

Albert Ayler -- the inspired, heroic, driven and sometimes difficult saxophonist who committed suicide in 1970 at age 34 -- still stands at a crossroads in jazz. By the late Nineties – when an exceptional, expanded edition of Ayler live surfaced -- even the music's most ardent advocates were having to concede that jazz was almost...

CHARLES MINGUS: Genius captured in the late Fifties

CHARLES MINGUS: Genius captured in the late Fifties

Charles Mingus was one of jazz's greatest geniuses and remains among the most misunderstood. Irascible and demanding, his personality and roguish reputation often tower larger than his inspired music. The respectful Columbia Legacy reissue in '99 of two of his late Fifties albums – Mingus Ah Um and Mingus Dynasty – restored...

Various Artists: Message from the Tribe (Universal Sound/Southbound)

Various Artists: Message from the Tribe (Universal Sound/Southbound)

On the surface this may look like one for those with selective taste: here is a 12 track collection of inner city jazz from Tribe Records out of Detroit between '72 and '76. The dates are important: Motown had all but gone from the city, many of the jazz musicians had been used as session players but were inspired by Archie Shepp, Ornette...

Various Artists: Weird Nightmare; Meditations on Mingus (Sony)

Various Artists: Weird Nightmare; Meditations on Mingus (Sony)

Arranger Hal Willner has put together some exciting, fascinating, irritating collaborations in the past on his tributes to Walt Disney music, Thelonious Monk, Kurt Weill and Fellini soundtrack man Nino Rota. But this one for jazz composer/bassist Charles Mingus is a bit different. Previously Willner would put together people such as...

CHARLES MINGUS, PITHECANTHROPUS ERECTUS IN 1956: Man standing up tall

CHARLES MINGUS, PITHECANTHROPUS ERECTUS IN 1956: Man standing up tall

By the time Charles Mingus died in 1979 at 56, most of the obituaries had already been prepared. Mingus, suffering the increasingly debilitating Lou Gehrig's disease, hadn't been able to walk or play bass in a year, and things just got worse. When told of his passing, the bassist Charlie Haden said, "Charles Mingus was one of those rare...

Lloyd McNeill: Asha (Universal Sounds/Southbound)

Lloyd McNeill: Asha (Universal Sounds/Southbound)

Jazz flautist Lloyd McNeill lived the kind of life only possible in his era: he counted among his friends in the Sixties and Seventies Pablo Picasso (when they both lived in the south of France, McNeill also being a painter), jazz musicians such as Cecil McBee and Ron Carter, singer Nina Simone and many in the Civil Rights movement. He...

FREE JAZZ WITH A BLEEP: The Norwegian electronic-jazz label Rune Grammofone

FREE JAZZ WITH A BLEEP: The Norwegian electronic-jazz label Rune Grammofone

Thelonious Monk said, "Jazz and freedom go hand in hand”. We can guess he meant freedom in a political sense, because jazz is about individual expression and in that regard was a vehicle for the aspirations of his people. It's about freedom and post-Monk found its voice in free jazz. Free jazz is much maligned, largely...

DAVID S. WARE: The price of free

DAVID S. WARE: The price of free

When the histories of jazz in the 20th century are published one name from the last two decades could loom unnaturally large: Wynton Marsalis. In some books he'll be hailed as the man who saved jazz from factionalism, commercial isolation and the like. In others he'll be the revisionist who used unquestionable talent, persuasive...

James Blood Ulmer: Are You Glad To Be In America (1981)

James Blood Ulmer: Are You Glad To Be In America (1981)

For many of the open-eared among jazz listeners -- those who had grown up on rock guitarists and heard in Hendrix the vanguard of a fusion, followed Miles Davis through Bitches Brew and Jack Johnson, had albums by John McLaughlin and understood jazz-funk -- it seemed as if guitarist-singer James Blood Ulmer was going to deliver them from...

SUPERBREW: Journeys in the past

SUPERBREW: Journeys in the past

Any honest longtime observer of local jazz would say that right now it’s moribund, the patient has no discernible pulse. Sure some musicians would argue otherwise. But they would say that, wouldn’t they? Graybeards like me -- people engaged by local jazz and improv.music for over three decades, and aware of the decades...

The Master Musicians of Jajouka: Brian Jones presents The Pipes of Pan at Jajouka (1971)

The Master Musicians of Jajouka: Brian Jones presents The Pipes of Pan at Jajouka (1971)

Some albums have auspicious beginings and a messy legacy. So it is with this album recorded in Morocco in 1968 by Brian Jones, then of the Rolling Stones. By the time the album was released Jones had been dead a year -- he drowned a year after his trip to Morocco and was no longer a Stone -- and a shadow was cast over its mesmerising music....

PAUL HORN INTERVIEWED (1992): The healing force within

PAUL HORN INTERVIEWED (1992): The healing force within

For a man pegged as “the founding father of new age music," jazz saxophonist and flute player Paul Horn has a clear, pragmatic view of the music – which was spawned in the wake of his Inside album, recorded in the Taj Mahal in the late Sixties. That meditative piece -- which used the long acoustic delay within the...

JOE LA BARBERA PROFILED: Counting the beats

JOE LA BARBERA PROFILED: Counting the beats

For some reason - perhaps because they work in a loud profession - you expect drummers to shout. Few do, and while Joe La Barbera may have started his career in the appropriately named Thundering Herd led by Woody Herman, the quietly spoken drummer doesn't shout about it, and doesn't bellow about his illustrious career either. For the...

Sonny Rollins Trio: Shadow Waltz (Solar/Southbound)

Sonny Rollins Trio: Shadow Waltz (Solar/Southbound)

Although now 80 and still playing at the time of this writing, the problem tenor giant Rollns has faced from the Sixties onwards is that no matter how great he plays, his every accomplishment is almost invariably compared to his exceptional work between 1955 and '58. That was when he recorded Saxophone Colossus, Way Out West, the set which...

Gil Scott-Heron and Jamie XX: We're New Here (XL)

Gil Scott-Heron and Jamie XX: We're New Here (XL)

Although much hailed -- perhaps because no one expected to hear from him again -- last year's I'm New Here by American poet Gil Scott-Heron did seem a little under-developed: pieces faded out, other bits were just snippets of conversations and so on. That didn't deny its visceral power -- made more so given his recently troubled life -- but...

The Blind Boys of Alabama: Retrospective (Stem/Southbound)

The Blind Boys of Alabama: Retrospective (Stem/Southbound)

With this long-running gospel-cum-doo wop group due in New Zealand for a concert in April with Aaron Neville and Mavis Staples, this triple disc originally released in 2007 gets a timely re-release. The Blind Boys have been around in name since 1939 and recording since the late Forties -- a couple of their founders only died in the past...

TROMBONE SHORTY INTERVIEWED (2011): Born to blow

TROMBONE SHORTY INTERVIEWED (2011): Born to blow

Troy Andrews – better known as Trombone Shorty – is one of the rising stars of the New Orleans jazz scene. But he had a head start, he was playing trombone in local brass bands when he was six. He attended the same arts college as Wynton and Branford Marsalis and Harry Connick Jnr, got out and played with rock bands (Lenny...

Trombone Shorty: Backatown (Verve Forecast)

Trombone Shorty: Backatown (Verve Forecast)

This hot young trombonist, trumpeter and singer from New Orleans -- who plays the National Jazz Festival in Tauranga at Easter, and is interviewed here -- brings more than just the local funk and groove to his style. There is a gritty guitar part all over the urgent opener Hurricane Season here (and on the political/socially responsible...

SONNY ROLLINS INTERVIEWED (2011): The old lion still prowling

SONNY ROLLINS INTERVIEWED (2011): The old lion still prowling

Gary Giddins, America's most authoritative jazz critic, said of tenor saxophonist Sonny Rollins that he was “one of the last immortals, the most powerful presence in jazz today. He is its most cunning, surprising, and unpredictable improviser – the one musician whose infrequent concert appearances foster intense anticipation and...

THE BARGAIN BUY: Ornette Coleman; Original Album Series (Rhino)

THE BARGAIN BUY: Ornette Coleman; Original Album Series (Rhino)

The great saxophonist/composer Ornette Coleman never seems to have been in any doubt about how he might influence the course of music: the title of his first album was The Shape of Jazz to Come (an Essential Elsewhere album here) and that was followed by Change of the Century. Then there was the bald assertion of This is Our Music, his...

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