Friday, March 12, 2004

Iconic photo by Lee Friedlander


Rahsaan Roland Kirk is probably best known for his ability to play multiple woodwind instruments simultaneously. He should also be remembered for his slavish devotion to his art, his relentless innovation and his overwhelming passion for music.

Notoriously outrageous, completely blind, and prodigiously talented; Rahsaan Roland Kirk was not only ahead of his time, he was ahead of OURS.

Kirk learned to play over FORTY instruments in his career. After a stroke in 1975, he was left partially paralyzed on one side of his body and subsequently taught himself to play the sax WITH ONE HAND to continue gigging.
That should tell you everything you need to know.

These tracks were all recorded in the last five years of Kirk's life.
Rahsaan died in 1977, felled by his second stroke.

Quoth the Maestro:
"When I die... I want to be cremated, put in a bag of pot and I want beautiful people to smoke me and hope they got something out of it."

Some late era Rahsaan Roland Kirk. Smoke up, beautiful.


Roland Kirk - "Serenade to a Cuckoo" (Live)

This is probably Kirk's best known, most accessible and most covered piece (I wouldn't mind listening to the Jethro Tull if anyone's got it).

That simultaneous singing, buzzing, whistling and flute is all by Kirk.

WONDERFUL Kirk tribute page
Great design and content out the wazoo.
Probably the best place to get started learning more about the man.
The Flute Info page asserts that Roland was the first jazz flutist to use key clicks, but I have to wonder if that's right. Any jazzheads wanna back him up or deny?
This track is from Kirk's final release, a double disc live album named
"Standing Eight", available at Amazon.
The original version of this track is from the seminal album "I Talk With Spirits", which I think is his best album, period. Listen to the clips, especially "Trees" and "Business Ain't Nothin' But the Blues".
Heck, just thinkin' about it made me dig out my old tape copy of "Spirits" and the nearly equally stellar Inflated Tear to give them a relisten. Revelatory.


Roland Kirk - "Never Can Say Goodbye"

Cover of the Jackson 5 classic.

This is just genius. Kirk uses the title as motif; the musicians can't say goodbye to the MUSIC. The first false ending on this four minute track comes at two and a half minutes, but Kirk vehemently demands that the song go on.

They wring the hell out of it.

This is, by the way, fonkier than a sackagrits.

The bizarre story of Roland Kirk's set on the final episode of "Ed Sullivan"
Too strange NOT to be true. For more tidbits, see also "Bright Moments", Kirk's biography by John Kruth.
A discography.


Roland Kirk - "Ain't No Sunshine"

Cover of the Bill Withers classic.

How Kirk manages to enunciate the lyrics at the same time he plays the notes is beyond me. Never heard anyone else do anything like this, before or since.

"At the age of six he tried to get music out of a water hose."
Another great Kirk tribute page, circa 1995 so the design is no great shakes but it's awful heartfelt and very personal. Good readin'.
This and the prior track are off the '72 release "Blacknuss", available from Amazon.
It's a wildly funky collection and a possible contender for all-time best covers album.


Roland Kirk - "High Heel Sneakers"

This is a bit more standard than I like my Jazz, but the latin influence and Kirk's wailing solos on this Tommy Tucker cover make up for it.

"He hated phonies. He used to say if Diana Ross was walking on the other side of the street, he'd cross over, just to hit her with his stick. How dare she represent Billie Holiday in 'Lady Sings The Blues.' She had no voice!"

Fascinating article about Kirk's competitive side. Son would challenge other musicians to onstage battles. Here's another quote:

"Freddie (Hubbard) would play, and then Rah would follow him. Rah would play his solo note for note back to him [on one sax] with the right hand while playing some other shit [on another sax] with his left hand. This really fucked Freddie up. He had just played his baddest shit and Rahsaan played it back to him and then played another solo on top of it. Freddie just wasn't ready for that!"
Purchase "The Case of the Three Sided Dream in Audio Color" from Amazon.
Not my favorite album. For newbies, I'd say "We Free Kings" is a great jumpoff spot.
Scroll down a bit here for a review of "Three Sided Dream" by none other than Harvey Pekar (he liked it).


Hooookay, I'm sorry but I've got a few more bits of addenda to the musicblog discussion, then i'll shut up about it for a bit. Hopefully.

First off, all the new music I'm listening to comes from three places these days: my father (the mix tape of out of print fifties rnb with one side of Little Richard B-Sides he sent is astonishing; if I had the capability to turn analog to digital, I would SO post it), Daily Music Fix and that oldest of old school pirate outlets: the library. Any decent library is the PERFECT place for a music hookup and if you live in or about New York City? Fuhgettaboutit.

I'm always surprised that more hipsters don't take advantage of the system. Get yourself a card and then search the online card catalog that EVERY city library system has these days, find the artists that you want to learn more about and then put a hold/interlibrary loan/whatever on the music you're interested in. Two weeks later and you're good to go. Your main limits by and large are going to be that there won't be anything much more recent than 2001, but the entire catalogs of John Coltrane? Elvis? Marvin Gaye? Charlie Mingus? Bruce Springsteen? Bob Dylan? Yeah, they probably have that; just for starters. Plus there's all the fuckable librarians.

Oh, my yesterdaily library haul? That would be Lalo Schifrin's "Music from Mission Impossible", Glen Gould's "Goldberg Variations" and "Vince Guaraldi's Greatest Hits".
Also Robert Flaherty's Louisiana Story, He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not (could Audrey Tautou be cuter?), a handful of comic lit, Philip K. Dick's "Minority Report" (nice book design by Chip Kidd) and the O'Reilly guide to HTML and XTML, which is DESPERATELY necessary, cuz I'm clueless.

Commentary on any or all of the above available upon request.

Anyway brief diversion back on topic: if what we're worried about is the infringement of artist's rights, why stop with music? Why not words or pictures? Why is there no outcry at the tremendous amount of print journalism that gets reprinted, quoted or referenced on the daily at blogs everywhere? Why isn't it common practice to acknowledge and get permission on the source from every photo that's displayed? I'm not playing at being didactic here, I really don't understand how this standard doesn't apply.

Anyway, here's how I sleep at nights: my personal answer to the conundrum of "helping/hurting sales" has been to post links with every song to a site where you can buy the album that the track is from. My hope is that those of you who find music you like here will go check out more by the same artist. Effectively, I'm following street team principles: I put up an ad for the music and talk it up. Yay, grass roots; but what I want to know is ARE any of you hunting this stuff down? PLEASE tell me if you are; I'm awful curious to see if I'm right about this.

Further, I keep the downloadable material up pretty darn briefly, not because of bandwidth issues but 'cause I don't want this to be some sort of a permanent repository. As previously noted, I'm not here to fill up your harddrive; I just wanna play wit' yo' mind.

It ain't a library, kids; it's an ice cream truck. Get em while they're cool.



George Michael's decision to start posting all his new music online for free is a bit of a stunner. Quoth the Beeb: "'I've been very well remunerated for my talents over the years so I really don't need the public's money.' He added that he hoped people downloading his music would donate to his favourite charities."

Whoa. Immediate reaction would be:

1) This is quite cool and gives him a level of cred I never gave him before.
2) NOW we can expect some publicity.
3) Why wasn't it Prince?
4) I wonder if Comfort Stand would take him?
5) The last Michael I heard was "Listen Without Prejudice", which I rather liked. Has anyone heard anything since? Does he still have any chops?
Big ups to Gardner Linn, who just sent me a fascinating looking mix CD. The theme is "Some Girls", so we have Tom Waits' "Alice", The Fall covering The Kinks "Victoria", "Alison" by Elvis Costello, "Natasha" by Rufus Wainwright and so on.

Looks great. Thanks man!

Oh and check out Gardner's site as he too is musicbloggin' these days (isn't everyone?). His latest post, on David Lynch inspired songs includes Roy Orbison's "In Dreams" and one of my fave covers, Rebekah Del Rio's version of "Crying".
Worth your time.
Just because I'll forget to mention it unless I throw it in now, go get some 2001 sound clips for your desktop.


I updated the Daily Music Fix with a buncha new sites and wanted to drop the 411 on ya.

I wasn't really feeling Oh Manchester, but then they posted "Lady Cab Driver" and that's all she wrote. Part of the infamous Rub Hub.
new(ish) hits the ground running with Kanye and Sufjan.
Soul Sides is Pop Life's side project and one of the more exciting musicblogs out there. (Incidentally, anyone with access to unreissued vinyl NEEDS to be online.)
Literally every track he's posted thus far is a winner. Aretha's cover of "Skylark" recasts her as jazz vamp in a way you may not recognize, so start there.
Webjay has almost unlimited potential. See here for an explanation.

Current music featured includes Iraqi pop, William Burroughs spoken word, Spike Jones, The Fat Boys and Mrs. Miller. I haven't had time or inclination to properly excavate, but it's pretty promising.
Punkassbitch has been replenishing the music bin pretty quickly with a generally interesting playlist of popular music.

On a bummer note, this was the first blog this morning to tell me about the suicide of Dave Blood, bassist for the Dead Milkmen.
Coverlog is a neat dutch site that posts an original song and an excellent cover of same. Herbie Hancock/Nirvana do "All Apologies", Joss Stone and the Stripes on "Fell in Love With a Girl", etc.

Great idea; I may have to rip off the format for a later post. Again, I wish I was a polyglot cuz I don't know what the heck the commentary sez.
K Records Online Store has gobs of indyrock musicsamples. Having never heard Mirah before, I am now duly won over.
To repeat: this is what ALL record companies should be doing. I'll be buying that Mirah.
Radiant Slab isn't so much music as found sound: slice of life field recordings.
I love this sort of thing; your milage may vary.
ZeroGweb got props yesterday and more today.
"mp3 links are taken from artist + record label web sites or other authorised sources."
Matthew's already repped them, so I'm sure you've already heard the buzz on Bubblegum Machine, but here they are again. I haven't looked at a tenth of the site yet, but what I've seen so far is jawdropping.
In depth spelunking is certainly warranted.
I mentioned it before, but it SO deserves another plug: Rank's Reggae Revival is OOZING with quality ska. This page excites the hell outta me. Similarly let us not forget Dean's ruthlessly thorough Public Enemy tribute joint, Shutemdown.
Go. GO!
Esselle combines great clicky, funny writing and honeybunches of music into one readable page that's about ten times better laid out and more clever than mine.
The Authentic History Center offers music from the forties and scads of oral history interviews.
If there's a cooler site on the web than The Electric Company MP3Archive, I've yet to see it. Oh god, this is good.

I just found Dream Chimney.
Deep, lovely design, multilingual, all over the place.
I need more time to explore, but I think it's easy to recommend.
Music scattered throughout.
Tyrone Shoelaces is just gettin' started on the music thang. D-Block, Gold Chains covers and DJ Screw so far.

...and hey, if you know of sites I don't I'd love to know about them.

I'm hoping to keep an eye on the growth of the phenomena.

I'll add these to the blogroll over the weekend.


"Bukowski" won me over to Modest Mouse=why wasn't I told earlier about cLOUDDEAD=can't stop listening to "Are You Too Clever" by Larry Coryell overnovernovernoever=any clues where I got this Generacion track: "Toma Que Toma"? Cause if it hasn't been blogposted recently, _I_ want to put it up; it's so FUN=still enjoying Kanye=there's a dangermouse/jemini/ceelo collabo called "What You Sittin' On" that bears googling and dling=still don't understand the Franz Ferdinand thing, someone please advise


If I get a Mix CD review, I'll drop ya'll a line on Sunday, otherwise I'll meet you back here on Monday with a REAL rarity: unreissued selections from a 1930's Japanese Swing band performing a "Chinese Tango" with banjo accompaniment.

I think I can promise you've not heard that before.


File Under: Things my Gmamama says loudly from her room while watching the NAACP Image Awards that I would rather not have to hear:
"Beyonce doesn't look very black."