A Rare Roland Kirk LP, And Some Fond Memories
The other day I was sitting in my room listening to Roland Kirk, Volunteered Slavery, Atlantic 1534 — Side Two, the one that was recorded at the 1968 Newport Jazz Festival. And I was thinking it was a shame that none of his records, other than this one side, ever really captured both his prodigious talents as well as the incredible excitement and amazement he generated with his live performances. I used to see Kirk whenever he would play at the Village Vanguard, and he was a true phenomenon: Three horns strung around his neck to be played in unison; a couple of flutes hanging off his body, including a flute he would play through his nose; various gongs and sirens and alarms and whistles and other noisemakers all aimed at adding various tones and textures to his playing. And his playing — on tenor, on flute, on whatever — was vastly underrated. He could wail and he could swing and he could play ballads and he was just a gifted musician and performer.
I also saw him perform after he had his stroke and was partially paralyzed and, while it was a gallant effort, it was sad to watch. He was a fraction of his old self and, unfortunately, his ideas far exceeded his physical abilities. As mentioned, I never felt his own recordings lived up to either his talents or his energy. In fact, aside from this one side of Volunteered Slavery, my favorite recording of Kirk on vinyl is Charles Mingus, Oh Yeah, Atlantic 1377. And I’ve listened to all of his other records — at least I thought I had until I was browsing on eBay this morning and noticed a Roland Kirk record I had never before seen.
I’ve been collecting jazz records since 1970 (if you want the whole sordid story of how it began, go to Song For My Father) and it always startles me when I see a record that is new to my eyes or ears — yet it seems to happen fairly often, which is a tribute to the vast number of jazz LPs recorded and reissued in the past 50-plus years, as well as to the power of eBay as a medium to communicate information to collectors.
Anyway, the rare Kirk record of which I speak is this one: Roland Kirk, Third Dimension, Bethlehem 6064. This is an original pressing in M- condition and it is being offered by the most reputable of sellers, Euclid Records. Alas, as much as I would love to own this record, it is already priced at $333 and it will probably go for much more, and that is beyond what I would like to pay these days, particularly as I am more interested in reducing my collection rather than increasing it.
If anyone out there would like to give us more insight about this record, or would like to share his or her own memories of Roland Kirk, that would be welcome and wonderful.