Rahsaan Roland Kirk
Compliments of the Mysterious Phantom
OK, sure, Captain Kirk, here, was considered a “circus act” while he was alive. And he was, putting more instruments in his mouth than a… well, you’ve seen the movies. And, hell, who knows what in the hell he was rambling about during his concerts. But Thelonious Monk used to trance dance in the middle of his shows. There is no doubt that Rahsaan was a showman, but that, by no means, made him a sideshow attraction eating the heads off chickens. Recordings like this tell you that pyrotechnics were indeed involved in his concerts, but he was so much more than flash.
Some 25 years after the man’s death, with the novelty gone, Rahsaan Roland Kirk is most definitely recognized as the consummate artist he truly was. He was not only able to switch deftly between tenor sax and flute (and nose flute and conch shell and kitchen sink), but he was also able to meld funky, Lee Morgan hard hop, Miles’ fusion experiments and post-Coltrane histrionics into a marvelous, cohesive, wholly entertaining whole.
Compliments of the Mysterious Phantom captures all this and all that was wonderful about Kirk’s music. This 1974 recording, which catches him at San Diego’s Backdoor, is a wonder to behold. The disc kicks off with “Passion Dance,” a kinetic, adrenaline rush with all the Coltrane flourishes for which his generation of sax men were notorious. However, Kirk does temper his insanity with good, old-fashioned, early ’70s funk. Songs like “Fly Town Nose Blues,” “Freaks for the Festival” and “Volunteered Slavery” drip with the soul Bobby Byrd know you got. There are moments when preacher man gets up on his pulpit and loses the crowd, but a lot of it is funny or maybe profound or maybe both•it’s hard to say. And, if that wasn’t enough, there’s always “Blacknuss,” an amazing gospel barn burner featuring only the black keys on the piano (well worth the price of admission).
The Mysterious Phantom is an amazing live album from an amazing “circus act” of a musician, who once again proves that we critics really don’t know what the hell we’re talking about.