Rahsaan Roland Kirk

I, Eye, Aye: Live at the Montreux Jazz Festival, 1972

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This live recording is a companion to a documentary called The One Man Twins. Released for the first time in 1996, both audio and video gives both fans and the uninitiated a glimpse of the century's most colorful performers and most complex jazz musicians. Kirk's band for the date was comprised of pianist Ron Burton, bassist Henry "Pete" Pearson, drummer Robert Shy, and percussionist Joe Texidor. Only Burton and Texidor were Kirk regulars. The set is absolutely electrifying. From the few short raps Kirk offers the crowd, one cannot be prepared for the honking, shouting, funky, gritty sets that follow. Kirk begins with "Seasons," a careening rush of flute acrobatics, and on into a deeply moving rendition of "Balm in Gilead," where Kirk evokes the spirit of Paul Robeson, and then into arguably the greatest version of "Volunteered Slavery" on record, a slamming R&B stomp of literally epic proportions, where Kirk uses each of his horns and starts blowing different notes on each simultaneously. There is a gorgeous solo medley where Kirk combines Ellington's "Satin Doll" and an improvisation on its two themes and comes up with something completely new, yet reverentially sound. The set ends with "Serenade to a Cuckoo," which moves across scalar dimensions and tonal registers with a deep, funky grace, and finally, "Pedal Up," a standard Kirk crowd-pleaser that brings all of his elements -- the spectral, the spiritual, and the carnal -- into full play. The band, with new players, can barely keep up with Kirk, but Burton keeps them right in line with the master's shifts in mood, mode, and tempo while keeping the entire gig harmonically on course no matter which instrument Kirk chooses to play. This is a hell of an introduction to one of the least-understood figures in jazz history, and an absolute necessity for fans.

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