Track Selection: “Doin’ the Sixty-Eight”
Roland Kirk (ts, mzo, str, fl, siren) Jack McDuff (org) Joe Benjamin (b) Art Taylor (d) recorded Rudy Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, NJ, July 11, 1961
AMG REVIEW by Lindsay Planer
“Kirk’s Work — Rahsaan Roland Kirk’s third LP — teams him up with organist “Brother” Jack McDuff for Kirk’s most soulful post-bop set to date. His unorthodox performance style incorporates the polyphonies of a tenor sax, flute, manzello, and stritch. The latter instrument is Kirk’s own modification of a second-generation B-flat soprano sax. This contributes to the unique sonic textures and overtones Kirk creates when playing two — and often three — of those lead instruments simultaneously. The loose and soulful nature of McDuff’s Hammond organ lends itself to the swinging R&B vibe pervasive throughout the album. Completing the quartet is Joe Benjamin (bass) and Art Taylor (drums) — both veteran jazzmen in their own right. They lend their expertise as well as innate sense of rhythm to the ominous swing of the title track.
Of the four original Kirk compositions, “Doin’ the Sixty-Eight” is arguably the strongest. The percussive rhythms weave a hypnotic Latin groove over which Kirk and McDuff both snake some highly cerebral solos. The more aggressive performance style that Kirk would later incorporate definitely shows signs of development on Kirk’s Work. While certainly not the best in his catalog, it is a touchstone album that captures the early soulful Rahsaan Roland Kirk.”
Generally I prefer to write my own reviews but when someone else has done all the heavy lifting it makes sense to stand aside.
Vinyl: Esquire 32-164 UK release of US Prestige 7210 (below)
The US original Prestige cover photograph of Kirk retains essential shadow detail in a great photo with bags of atmosphere, promptly lost in the Esquire due to poor reprographic technique. Bad show Esquire. As with all Esquires, the stampers originate from the original US master, with the run-out sporting RVG initials and hand engraved matrix code.
The record everybody wants and can’t get is Roland Kirk’s “Triple Threat” which maxes at auction at nearly three thousand dollars. Kirk’s Work on the other hand weighs in around 2% of that or less, which is not far off of what it cost at my eBay auction close. I put it down to the cover myself. That Triple Threat cover is quite something, plus the title oozes “badness”, which always gets collectors juices flowing. Not one threat, not two threats, but three threats. Now that’s what I call threatening. Kirk’s Work sounds so respectable and worthy, like a 3,000 word end of term essay, entirely lacking in “badness”. Discuss the works of Rahassan Roland Kirk, with reference to Sunday School Picnics, lemonade coolers, and fluffy kittens. Nah, barbeque the kittens, I’m feeling baad.
I am warming to Mr Kirk, my second vinyl after We Free Kings. “Brother” Jack McDuff manages to avoid sounding like Jimmy Smith, for which I am eternally grateful.. It is a refreshing antidote to too much navel gazing stuff. But I would still rather have Triple Threat. It’s that badness that appeals, I don’t mind admitting. There are times when one or two threats is just not enough.