Rahsaan Roland Kirk

Boogie-Woogie String Along for Real

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The final album Rahsaan Roland Kirk ever recorded remains one of his finest. Post-stroke, Kirk struggled with his conception of the music he was trying to make. Boogie-Woogie String Along for Real is the payoff. The title track features strings playing distended harmonics over his blowing and the backing of a guttersnipe rhythm section and a full-blown horn section -- including a very young trombonist named Steve Turre -- behind him. From here, Kirk works veritable magic with the material of the age, swimming deeply in the blues that Gershwin didn't know he had in "I Loves You Porgy," getting an aging Tiny Grimes to wail his guitar-playing ass off on "Make Me a Pallet on Your Floor," and then flowing elegantly on Ellington's "In a Mellow Tone" and Gershwin's "Summertime." It's almost too much to bear as the emotions come falling from the horn and the rhythm section tries to keep them balanced, but the heartbreak and joy are everywhere. When Kirk closes the disc with his own stomping hard-swing R&B of "Dorthaan's Walk" (dedicated to his wife) and takes it out with Percy Heath's "Watergate Blues," he closes the circle. With Hilton Ruiz playing a deep-grooved Latin funk against Kirk's harmonica and alto, Heath playing cello, and Turre opening up a huge space of feeling behind the front line as Sonny Brown and Phil Bowler keep it all in check on drums and bass respectively, Kirk sums it all up in his alto solo. There is so much sadness, betrayal, pain, and resolve in his lines that the rules of Western music no longer apply. The all-inclusive vision Kirk has of a music embraces all emotions and attitudes and leaves no one outside the door. This is Kirk's Black Classical Music, and it is fully realized on this final track and album.

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