Roland Kirk: Rip Rig and Panic (1965) Mercury



Two different sides of Kirk:

Selection 1: Once in a While

Selection 2: Slippery, Hippery, and Flippery


Roland Kirk (tenor saxophone, manzello, stritch, flute, siren, oboe, castanets) Jaki Byard (piano) Richard Davis (bass) Elvin Jones (drums) recorded Rudy Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, NJ, January 13, 1965


Allmusic says it all:

Kirk Allmusic ratings

Five stars all round. I’ll let Allmusic reviewer Thom Jurek  wax lyrical about this album, while I make myself a cup of tea.

Despite its brevity, Rip, Rig, and Panic may be pre-Rahsaan Roland Kirk’s greatest outing.  Kirk is teamed with the most awesome rhythm section he ever recorded with:  Clocking in at a mere 36 minutes, Kirk and his quartet moved through a series of musicological changes that defined him as an artist at the time. Five of the seven compositions are his, and reach through each of the phases that Kirk was interested in integrating into his compositional and improvisational voice.

First there is the elegant modal music of “No Tonic Press,” with its non-linear mathematic groove maintained with verve by Jones in all the knotty spots.  Then there is the ethereal Middle-Eastern harmony juxtaposed against the changes in “Once in a While” by Bennie Green. But the whole thing comes together by the third tune, when Kirk sifts his hearing of New Orleans music into gear with “From Bechet, Byas, and Fats.” Using his loopy manzello to approximate the soprano saxophone, Kirk and Byard trade fours on some odd open-D modal theme before shifting into the music of Bechet’s time and coming out on tenor with direct quotes from the Don Byas book, with Byard and Davis turning around on a blues motif as Jones double times with a sheet of rim shots.

Through the rest, the set moves consistently more outside, with Kirk flipping instruments and Jones and Davis turning the rhythmic patterns around on Byard, who takes it all in stride and shifts the harmonic levels to Kirk’s intensity on the title track and “Mystical Dream.” The set ends with the bluesy, somnambulant groove of “Slippery, Hippery, and Flippery.” There’s a paranoid opening with Jones running all over the kit, Byard slipping up and down the board, and Kirk making siren sounds before entering his bluesy post-bop nightmare of a jam that winds itself out over studio distortion, Kirk’s noises, and a killer tenor solo that caps everything on the album. Positively smashing”


What else can I say?.

Knotty, Modal, Somnambulant Groove


Kirk makes music out of anything, references every jazz style both past and future, moves effortlessly in and out of any harmonic situation; disdainful of strict tonality, he mixes gruff and strained sounds equally with conventional tone, he introduces found sounds, there is a playfulness like Monk, limitless exuberance and a sense of fun. One of the great figures of jazz, eclectic and full of surprises, an individual in a category of his own. Great.

Cover: UK Alternative cover

The US get a special origami gatefold package – which the UK release sidestepped, you can understand why, all that paper-folding and working with craft knives. Brits get an alternative cover flipback with a nice cover picture of Kirk inset. A US gatefold cover would have been nice but all the UK Limelight series are all economy flipbacks


Vinyl:  UK Mercury Limelight Series SLML 4015, first UK  release of US  Limelight LS86027. No Van Gelder master of course. Philips UK pressing, stereo. If a US copy turned up I would go for the upgrade, as UK Limelight transfers do not sparkle the way they should for a Van Gelder recording.



Collectors Corner

Source: Central London store,

Among members of the East London Jazz DJ Collective (Giles, its your turn to do the washing up again!) Kirk has a fanatical following, matched in enthusiasm only by  Sun Ra worshippers. When you find one Kirk among the new arrivals you can be pretty sure there are four or five others in there too. You don’t have just one Roland Kirk album, you need at least five. Unlike say Jimmy Smith and his 27 albums for Blue Note. Like nutmeg, a little goes a long way. But Kirk…his inventiveness means many satisfying sessions.

Hip-Hop-Kool-Kat-in-shadesMC Kool-Kat says:
I dig Kirk, you dig? This East End DJ collective sound like my kinda guys. To be honest, I’m already bored with North London. Crouch End is not as cool as I thought –  hardly anyone actually crouches there anyway. I’ve done with comparing car insurance, hell, Meerkats can’t even drive. I wanna be a DJ: I’ve already bought the hat. Rip Rig Panic, yeah. Modal.

9 thoughts on “Roland Kirk: Rip Rig and Panic (1965) Mercury

  1. Been trying to track this down for a while now, although I like Limelight’s version. What can I say I’m a suck for their gatefold inserts. 🙂


  2. Nice one! Got it (the LML, mono) the other day at the Utrecht Record fair for only a few euros. A British seller sold a huge (original) jazz collection for 10 euros a piece! Unfortunately the condition of most of the vinyl was poor. Nevertheless some buyers grabbed for hundreds of euros unseen (!). Guess they were in a hurry or money wasn’t the problem.
    In the middle of the chaos I was able to get hold of a this one, a Booker Little record and two Monks which were all nice and clean.
    By the way, I’m not bragging about my cheap finds, as I’m not that lucky usually (and original US jazz copys are hard to find in Holland). Ok, record fairs and the internet provide more than enough (just pay the price) but supply in the record stores is low.
    Love your blog.

    Regards, André


  3. The definitive Kirk album, he would never record again with such a perfect rhythm section featuring the monstrously talented Byard


  4. Strange. Never heard of or seen this album before. Completely slipped off my radar.

    On closer inspection, I vaguely remember seeing the American cover (dramatically different from British), which was on Limelight label, not Mercury proper.

    Would have to look into this one. Thanks for the tip, Andy.


  5. Yes, a lovely record. I think this is the copy I have — but that fold out/ fold up origami US gatefold is *very* nice. There seems little justice in the world when we Brits — who almost invented origami and gatefold sleeves and dammit vinyl too for that matter — don’t get the luxury version…


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