Rahsaan Roland Kirk

Gifts & Messages

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While this 1964 set is less renowned than its immediate follow-ups (I Talk with the Spirits and Rip Rig & Panic), it's one of the most straightforward hard bop sessions recorded by Roland Kirk (he added the "Rahsaan" in 1969) during his mid-'60s tenure at Mercury Records. As usual, Kirk plays between one and four reeds at a time throughout Gifts & Messages, his carefully thought-out yet often abandoned solos approaching free jazz at times. The assured hard bop of his backing trio, pianist Horace Parlan, bassist Michael Fleming and drummer Steve Ellington, does nothing to restrain Kirk's wilder fancies. The three are able to keep up with even his most outre offerings, such as "Vertigo Ro" and "Hip Chops," and are equally adept at the classically structured "March of Swan Lake" and the gentle "Petite Fleur." [Some reissues add a bonus track, the giddy improv "Jive Elephant."]