Roland Kirk – Kirk in Copenhagen

Roland KirkRoland Kirk
Kirk in Copenhagen
(Verve – 2004)
by John Thompson

The juices are flowing, baby! Let it flow, let it flow, let it flow! Released on Mercury Records, recorded live at the club Jazzhus Montmartre in October 1963, and produced by Quincy Jones, Kirk (whom later added Rahsaan) delivers music in a mammoth fashion. Sometimes unfairly criticized as a gimmick rather than a serious jazz musician, Kirk was known for sometimes playing three Saxes simultaneously. Here, Kirk plays tenor, manzello, stritch, flute, nose flute, and a siren whistle. Tete Montoliu (P), Don Moore and Niels-Henning Orsted Pedersen (B) and J.C. Moses complete the band, with an appearance by Sonny Boy Williams (harmonica).

Fabulous as his own M.C., Kirk produces harmonies on the woodwinds that are usually reserved for piano or guitar, most notably on Ellington’s Mood Indigo, as well as doubling-up on flute. On the Corner of King and Scott Streets is my favorite. Mingus-Griff Song is a swinging dedication to Charles Mingus and Johnny Griffin, while Cabin in the Sky showcases Kirks technical skills with some Charlie Parker-like riffs.

Going out on a limb, I will say that I enjoy the real-ness of the recording: Kirk as his own M.C., the over-amplified, tingy sound of the drums, Kirks interaction with the audience, and the out-of- tuned piano provide a real sense of the stories told by musical veterans about some of their actual club performance conditions. What’s most impressive is the amount of soul evident in Kirks playing. Down Beat Magazine, in 1964, gave this recording 4 ½ stars. I give it 5.