Rahsaan Roland Kirk
The Inflated Tear


4.5
superb

Review

by Zappa USER (12 Reviews)
January 16th, 2005 | 18 replies


Release Date: 1967 | Tracklist


A little about the artist:
Roland Kirk (later to be known as Rahsaan Roland Kirk) is one of the most interesting characters in the jazz world. Though he is most well known for his ability to play 3 instruments at once, (stritch, a straightened out Eb alto sax, manzello, a slightly curved Bb soprano sax, and the tenor saxophone), his invention of new instruments, and his charming stage persona, simply outlining his eccentricities does not do him justice. He was a very exciting improviser, and one who was capable in every area of jazz music. It may be interesting to note that he was blind for most of his life, from age 2 on up. It’s also pretty amazing that after a stroke in 1975 that left half of his body paralyzed, Kirk was able to continue to play the saxophone one-handed, since the technique he had employed all of his career called for it.

Let’s break it down track by track:

The Black and Crazy Blues (6:08) - This is a great, amazingly greasy blues. It’s soulful and very, very laid back, with Kirk blowing incredibly tasteful on the english horn. After Roland’s solo, Ron Burton plays a great piano solo. Near the end of Burton’s solo, Roland returns, now playing two horns to back him up. It feels very natural the way he slips in with the doubled harmony line. After that, it’s back to the first melody, finishing things off. It’s a gorgeous tune. Some people go to church, I listen to Roland Kirk singing his soul’s blues. 5/5

A Laugh for Rory (2:54) - This one begins with what sounds like a child talking, and then in comes Kirk’s flute, the drums, and the bass. The melody is joyful, sort of like children’s song. Roland’s solo after the melody is really cool. His flute style is pretty wild, with a lot of overtones, singing etc. Listen to Roland Kirk for a clue as to where Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull got his style. At the end of his solo, he blows his whistle, and it breaks into a swingin’ piano solo. I love the way the piano and the rhythm section interact here. It’s back to the head after these two brief solos, and that’s that. It’s cute, but not the best. 3.5/5

Many Blessings (4:45) - This starts with Roland Kirk’s amazingly soulful tenor playing completely solo. Then the tune actually starts, and it’s cool. It reminds me of something the Miles Davis 1965-1968 quintet would have played. The solo here has one over-bearing message to it: ROLAND KIRK CAN CIRCULAR BREATH. His phrases are INCREDIBLY long here, because he doesn’t really stop to breathe at all. However, this doesn’t come off as sounding absurd and self-indulgent, because his pacing and feel are so impeccable. It’s got a very defined slope, and it basically breaks off as if exhausted into the piano solo. I really like Ron Burton’s piano playing. He and Kirk seem to really fit each other very well, because they provide counterpoint to one another, but it always feels like a unified improvisational statement in each tune. As if Burton (who usually takes the second solo) is continuing onto whatever Roland Kirk said previously. Like before, it’s back to the beginning melody after the piano solo, and Roland finishes things off particularly excitingly with this one. I like it a lot. 5/5

Fingers in the Wind (4:15) - Another flute tune. This one is slower than the previous two tracks, and it’s sort of pretty. However, it’s not my favorite. Thankfully, Roland plays a really nice solo on this one, because I’m not all that fond of the head. Ron Burton’s accompaniment on this one is marvelous. His piano parts swell and fall behind Roland’s sweeping flutter of flute notes. He doesn’t get a solo on this one, though. Like I said, it’s not my favorite, but I definitely like things about it. 2.5/5

The Inflated Tear (4:58) - As you might expect, the title track is one of the best on the album! This starts off with some percussion noodling. Roland plays his flexatone, and it’s pretty cool. Then it’s into this amazing three-horn melody/harmony part. Ahhh, I love it. Then there’s a little bit of flexatone again, and Roland gets on his stritch to sing us a tune. I think this may be the prettiest melody that Roland Kirk wrote for this album. Then there’s this dramatic fall out, and the three horn part returns. It’s a pleasant surprise. Back again we go to that stritch melody, followed by a similar fall out, with Roland shouting like it’s utter chaos. More three horn stuff to finish it off. I like how this one isn’t just head/solo/head like your average jazz tune. It’s got 2 distinct composed parts, and it’s cool. 5/5

The Creole Love Call (3:54) (written by Duke Ellington) - So this is a great tune, and Kirk knows what he’s doing with it. He plays clarinet, tenor and stritch here. Starts by introducing the melody on clarinet, then plays some of both clarinet and stritch, and takes parts of the solo on each of the three instruments. It’s really amazing, and an obvious stand out. 5/5

A Handful of Fives (2:42) - This tune is great, too. It starts with some drums, and in comes everyone else, Roland Kirk on manzello this time. It’s really hip sounding, and interesting rhythmically. It’s not as laid back as most of the stuff here, or as intense as “Many Blessings," a too-cool-for-school medium, I guess. There’s no piano solo, it’s basically just Roland Kirk showing us what he can do with a manzello. I dig. 5/5

Fly By Night (4:18) - This one starts out with some bass notes. It’s the first time that the bassist has really stood out to me. There’s a repeated piano figure, and a cool tenor sax melody. This is another one that sort of reminds me of the Miles Davis quintet mentioned earlier. Along with Kirk is Dick Griffith on trombone, the only instance of a horn being played by anyone other than the bandleader. I like how he sounds playing harmony on the head. Kirk blows his whistle, and Griffith takes a very, very brief solo. I think it’s only one chorus before Roland picks up with his tenor. His solo is quite short as well, giving way to a piano solo. A little bit into it, the trombone and tenor play some background stuff for Burton to solo over. Another blow of the whistle, and it’s BASS SOLO TIME. Whoo. Steve Novosel is a good player, and although his solo is as brief as everyone else’s here, it’s nice. This song has got that post-bop feel, and it’s a cool melody with good playing. Because the solos are so short, it feels under-developed, though. 3.5/5

Lovelleveliloqui (4:04) - This melody reminds me very, very much of another jazz tune, but I can’t recall what it is. Luckily, I like the tune it reminds me of, and I like this. Kirk is playing alto. It’s a lot like the other post-boppish ones. I like Hopps’ drums on this one, it reminds me of Elvin Jones’ playing. He finally gets to play some stretch out on this one, when he trades with Roland near the end of the tune, and then breaks into a short solo of his own. A good tune, but not one that leaves the most lasting impression. 4/5

I’m Glad There Is You (2:12) - This is a nice little hard bop number with Roland Kirk on tenor. He plays amazingly well on this tune. He finishes the album with some sort of strange humming noises through his instrument. Hard to explain, but the tune is undeniably a gem. 5/5

Overall, this is an outstanding collection of great tunes. However, I think it lacks a feeling of unity. Like I said, it’s a collection of songs, rather than an album. Although I love almost everything on it, I can only give it a:

4.3/5



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Comments:Add a Comment 
Bartender
Emeritus
October 1st 2004


826 Comments


Great review.

You know I'm more or less a jazz/funk/etc noob (albeit with an embryonic "collection" now), so tell me; is this a sensible thing to purchase so early on?

Zappa
October 1st 2004


355 Comments


I personally think it's pretty accessible. It's melodic, and really not that out there rhythmically or harmonically. Really wha'ts strange about it is the fact that so many different voices are heard in a small group setting. Usually, the band has 4 or 5 different timbres that can be heard, but this one is all over the place with some clarinet here, some tenor here, some stritch here, etc, etc. It's strange in its approach, as well. That is, a lot of different things are covered over the course of the album, and it doesn't stick to one style. For that reason, I would have no idea who else to suggest if you dig it. Roland was a unique character, but one with an incredible gift for melody and expression.

Bartender
Emeritus
October 1st 2004


826 Comments


Sounds like a recommendation to me. I'll pick it up if I can find it.

Tangy zizzle
October 1st 2004


253 Comments


See Alex, it didnt get put nacl 3 pages in 5 minutes.

Cool review.

YDload
October 1st 2004


1207 Comments


Nice review Zappa; I played the saxophone for almost seven years, and I can really appreciate someone who creates innovative ways of playing like this guy does. Does this album have any vocals, or is that not typical of this genre? Just wondering.

Zappa
October 1st 2004


355 Comments


There are no vocals, except a bit of shouting in "The Inflated Tear."

YDload
October 1st 2004


1207 Comments


You mean like "One two three four?" That's cool.

Zappa
October 1st 2004


355 Comments


I think he says "help them, please help them!" or something like that. It's in the middle of the song, after the whole thing sort of explodes.

Zappa
October 3rd 2004


355 Comments


And down she went.

Iai
Emeritus
October 3rd 2004


3553 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Hey, your latest review is more popular than mine.

Very nice review. Man, I wish I could breathe circularly.

Zappa
October 3rd 2004


355 Comments


Do you know what it means to circular breath?

Iai
Emeritus
October 3rd 2004


3553 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

It allows you to play woodwind/brass instruments for an insanely long time, without taking an obvious breath. That much I know. I always figured that it involved breathing in through the nose and out through the mouth, thus using your 'breathing out' to play your instrument.

Don't singers use it to hold notes for unusually long times too?

Zappa
October 3rd 2004


355 Comments


Right, you breath in through nose and out through your mouth simultaneously. Theoretically, you never HAVE to stop holding your note for a breath. I only asked cause all these guitarists here might not know, so I didn't know if you were just making a joke or something. No offense.

Iai
Emeritus
October 3rd 2004


3553 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Don't worry. I partly want to know it because it's an incredible tool for a singer, and partly because I intend to take up the bassoon more seriously at some point in the future.

br3ad_man
Emeritus
November 6th 2004


2125 Comments


Bumped I like this guy a lot.

I also knew about circluar breathing because I am a tromboner

Zappa
November 7th 2004


355 Comments


I'm listening to him right now. The "Kirk's Work" album that I just downloaded while I was gone. Great stuff.

Happymeal
November 7th 2004


330 Comments


I'll DL this from you one of these days, Alex. :-*

masada
August 31st 2005


2733 Comments


Interesting.



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