Roland Kirk: Live In Copenhagen 

cd review

Multi-instrumental jazz contortionist Roland Kirk created a racket unlike anything ever put to record. He was most famous for his ability to play three customized saxophones at once, but routinely amazed audiences by playing upwards of six instruments and even singing within a single tune. This 1963 live document, first released in 1964 and now available for the first time on CD, shows Kirk firing on all cylinders. He leaps from blues to honking bebop-ish freakouts to solo big band (you must hear it to understand) with humor and energy that keeps his Danish audience between laughter and cheers. Unlike his oft-sullen contemporaries in avant-garde jazz, both reactions are complements to Kirk. The brief blues jam "The Monkey Thing" may be the real find of the album, as it shows Kirk's dementedly acrobatic heights--in this case singing, soloing on the flute and blowing through a nose flute simultaneously. He is accompanied by a stellar (though uncredited) harmonica solo from harp legend Sonny Boy Williamson, and the two perform a wild question-and-answer routine that blows away any attempt to pin a genre label on Kirk's onstage antics. Kirk was jazz's most talented and light-hearted deconstructionist and this inexpensive reissue provides a perfect starting point into his unique talent.

--Nicholas Collias

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