Roland Kirk (ts, mzo, str, fl) Lonnie Liston Smith (p) R. Boykins (b) Grady Tate (d) recorded Rudy Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, NJ, May 2, 1967 Verve engineer Val Valentin produced by Creed Taylor.
What with all the avant garde and bebop, I’ve been neglecting the groove. Time to bring in some balance, and who better than with multi-instrumentalist Roland Kirk, with a recording dedicated to his wife, Edith.
Problem with being a musical timelord, I’ve over shot the landing strip and found myself in 1967, with Roland Kirk just heading off for the groove years. A talented musician and larger than life showman, despite being engulfed in darkness for most of his life, Kirk emerged proudly as one of the iconic figures of “black music” (his description).
Allmusic comments on Don’t you cry
Assembling some of the finest cats working in the groove jazz idiom… on the Taylor tune, after a breathtaking arpeggio orgy on “Stompin’ Grounds” between Kirk and Smith, the elegance of the musician shines through, as Kirk’s flute sweeps through the rhythm section, carrying the cut-time number through a bop permutation or two before coming back to the blues in his solo. Smith’s pianism here is so light, his touch so quick and fluid, Kirk can’t help but cruise over the tune.
Allmusic user ratings award the album five stars. Dusty Groove add the following:
One of the most unusual Roland Kirk albums of the 60s – his only session for Verve, and a record cut with a slightly different feel than some of his work for Mercury or Atlantic. The core group’s an unusual one…all free-thinking talents that are enough to match the whimsy of Kirk’s own playing on tenor, flute, stritch, and manzello – but also strong enough jazz players to hold tight during the straighter jazz moments of the set. There’s a rich array of jazz styles and histories that seem to peek out from track to track – and the overall vibe is a bit less nutty than Kirk’s other albums, with a subtle genius that we really love. A great lost treasure.
Two weeks after Beautiful Edith, Kirk went on to record his highly regarded The Inflated Tear.
What happened to Roland Kirk? Kirk’s health went into rapid decline during the Seventies, suffering a debilitating stroke in 1975, and a second, fatal stroke, in 1977.
Vinyl: UK Verve SVLP 9193
The 1st UK 1967 release, the EMI mastering a trifle lacking in spark, though there is nothing to fault in the instrumental content. Recorded at Van Gelder’s Englewood Cliffs studio, you wonder about Van Gelder’s role – with Verve’s Creed Taylor in the driving seat and Verve’s own Head of Engineering Val Valentin on the credits.
Source: Central London record store.
This Kirk record is not especially rare and perhaps under-appreciated, as the sales pitch – the home portrait cover and album title – hint at sentimentality which is not found within, and not what Kirk fans are looking for. In short, it is much better than it looks, something in the music business often found the other way around. Such is the influence of packaging. Every collector faced with a record has to make a simple choice: Yes, or No. As long as there is still room on the shelf, it is better to say Yes. Anyway, you can always get more shelves.