Despite its brevity, Rip, Rig, and Panic may be pre-Rahsaan Roland Kirk's greatest outing. Recorded in 1965 at Rudy Van Gelder's studio in New Jersey, Kirk is teamed with the most awesome rhythm section he ever recorded with: drummer Elvin Jones, pianist Jaki Byard, and bassist Richard Davis. Clocking in at a mere 36 minutes, Kirk and his quartet moved through a series of musicological changes that defined him as an artist at the time. Five of the seven compositions are his, and reach through each of the phases that Kirk was interested in integrating into his compositional and improvisational voice. First there is the elegant modal music of "No Tonic Press," with its non-linear mathematic groove maintained with verve by Jones in all the knotty spots. Then there is the ethereal Middle-Eastern harmony juxtaposed against the changes in "Once in a While" by Bennie Green. But the whole thing comes together by the third tune, when Kirk sifts his hearing of New Orleans music into gear with "From Bechet, Byas, and Fats." Using his loopy manzello to approximate the soprano saxophone, Kirk and Byard trade fours on some odd open-D modal theme before shifting into the music of Bechet's time and coming out on tenor with direct quotes from the Don Byas book, with Byard and Davis turning around on a blues motif as Jones double times with a sheet of rim shots. Through the rest, the set moves consistently more outside, with Kirk flipping instruments and Jones and Davis turning the rhythmic patterns around on Byard, who takes it all in stride and shifts the harmonic levels to Kirk's intensity on the title track and "Mystical Dream." The set ends with the bluesy, somnambulant groove of "Slippery, Hippery, and Flippery." There's a paranoid opening with Jones running all over the kit, Byard slipping up and down the board, and Kirk making siren sounds before entering his bluesy post-bop nightmare of a jam that winds itself out over studio distortion, Kirk's noises, and a killer tenor solo that caps everything on the album. Positively smashing.
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AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek