Review by Lindsay Planer
Kirk’s Work, Rahsaan Roland Kirk’s third long-player, 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 up-tempo “revival meetin'” rendition of Sammy Kahn’s “Makin’ Whoopee” as well as the ominous swing of the title track. This is also an ideal showcase for Benjamin and Taylor’s running counterpoint that glides throughout — supporting soloists Kirk and McDuff. 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 stellar interpretation of “Skater’s Waltz” combines a well-known traditional melody with some of the most aggressive interaction from the quartet. The tune is put through its paces and the tenor sax/Hammond organ leads bounce around like a game of sonic ping pong. 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.
01. Three for Dizzy 5:11
02. Makin’ Whoopee (Donaldson–Kahn) 5:07
03. Funk Underneath 6:15
04. Kirk’s Work 3:54
05. Doin’ the Sixty-Eight 4:20
06. Too Late Now (Lerner–Lane)3:52
07. Skater’s Waltz (Charles Emile Waldteufel) (arr. Kirk) 4:23.
All music composed by Roland Kirk, except where noted.
Roland Kirk – tenor saxophone, manzello, strich [sic], flute, siren
Jack McDuff – Hammond organ
Joe Benjamin – bass
Arthur Taylor – drums
Recorded at Rudy Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, NJ, July 11, 1961
Release Date: 1961
Styles: Hard Bop, Jazz Instrument, Saxophone Jazz
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