Rahsaan Roland Kirk / Roland Kirk

Roland Kirk's Finest Hour

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As difficult as it is to adequately present such a talented, driven, quirky and unique musician, this compilation tries. Drawn from his Mercury and Verve recordings, mostly from the first half of the '60s, this worthy release eschews his later, more experimental work on Atlantic. Whether playing two or three woodwinds simultaneously, wailing on flute or whistle or employing his own stritch or manzello, he sounds like no one else. He gets sympathetic backing throughout, particularly from a wide assortment of pianists who include Herbie Hancock and Horace Parlan. Nine of the 14 tracks are written by the frontman himself, including "Serenade to a Cuckoo," which Jethro Tull covered on its debut. It's easy to see why Ian Anderson was impressed by Kirk's flute work.

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