Rahsaan Roland Kirk

Funk Underneath

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Funk Underneath (1967) is a reissue of Roland Kirk's Kirk's Work (1961) and includes support from the sizable trio of "Brother" Jack McDuff (organ), Joe Benjamin (bass), and Art Taylor (drums). Even though the session was only Kirk's third full-length outing, it was his most soulful excursion to date, reinforcing the not-so-subtle influence and fusion of R&B into post-bop jazz. The disc opens on the bluesy "Three for Dizzy," allowing Kirk and McDuff to effortlessly bandy licks behind the limber rhythm section. Keen-eared listeners can hear early and comparatively subdued signals from Kirk's whistle-like siren as he indicates the solos, commencing with some trademark buoyant and babbling from McDuff's swelling Hammond B-3. A frisky reading of the Sammy Kahn co-composition "Makin' Whoopie" significantly lightens the mood, sporting melodic sax leads that weave optimistically alongside of McDuff's eager -- yet never overtly anxious -- interplay. Kirk also breaks out his arrestingly inventive derivation of the alto sax, called a manzello -- which he performs simultaneously and in harmony with his tenor sax -- giving the impression of two respective players. Kirk's self-made stritch is a second-generation B flat soprano sax unleashing the unique tonality heard on the dizzyingly giddy reworking of Waldteufel's "Skater's Waltz." Benjamin's incessant basslines adhere to Taylor's mindful and economical trap-keeping, undergirding the malleable bed as the leaders bob and dive within the familiar melody. The title track "Funk Underneath" prominently features Kirk's hypnotically fragrant flute, which he contrasts with copious squeaks and squawks around McDuff's earthy intonations. "Doin' the Sixty-Eight" is another strong original as the seductive groove provides more than a hint of a breezy syncopated Latin vibe. "Kirk's Work" is a fitting moniker as the multi-instrumentalist trades some highly spirited blows with McDuff's cool and cerebral contributions. Whether it's as Funk Underneath or Kirk's Work, fans of Rahsaan Roland Kirk should avail themselves of this seminal entry.

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