Rahsaan Roland Kirk

Standing Eight

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In 1998, 32 Jazz reissued three albums from Rahsaan Roland Kirk's late period on the double-CD A Standing Eight. Those albums were The Return of the 5000 Lb. Man and Kirkatron -- both of which consisted of recordings made not long before the innovator suffered a debilitating stroke in 1975 -- and the post-stroke session, Boogie-Woogie String Along for Real. Hearing the pre-stroke and post-stroke material on the same collection, one cannot help but notice the contrast. The pre-stroke Kirk of Return and Kirkatron is a risk-taking, unpredictable, fearless daredevil of a musician who dazzles with everything from a tender flute solo on Minnie Riperton's "Loving You" to some soul-bearing tenor playing on Lester Young's "Goodbye Pork Pie Hat," Leon Russell's "This Masquerade" and the hauntingly eccentric "Theme for the Eulipions." Meanwhile, the post-stroke Kirk of Boogie-Woogie is someone who manages to deliver a worthwhile album despite his obvious impairment and physical limitations. Because the stroke had left him paralyzed on one side, Kirk faced the challenge of playing tenor and flute with the use of only one hand. Though parts of the CD are melancholy (especially his tenor playing on "I Loves You, Porgie"), Kirk's fighting spirit comes through on the quirky "Make Me a Pallet on the Floor" and Percy Heath's humorous "Watergate Blues." Sadly, Boogie-Woogie would be the innovator's final album before his death on December 5, 1977 at the relatively young age of 41.

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