[JPL] An Ensemble Tribute to an Artist Who Was One of a Kind...NYTimes

r durfee rdurfee2003 at yahoo.com
Wed Sep 6 20:28:42 EDT 2006

September 2, 2006
Music Review
An Ensemble Tribute to an Artist Who Was One of a Kind

“We have three guys up here to do what Rahsaan did by
himself,” said the trombonist Steve Turre at Dizzy’s
Club Coca-Cola on Wednesday night. That was no
exaggeration. Mr. Turre was leading a tribute to the
brilliantly idiosyncratic Rahsaan Roland Kirk, and he
had actually enlisted three separate musicians to fill
the multireedist’s shoes. 

Throughout his career, Mr. Kirk, who died in 1977,
often seemed to be doing the work of two or three
musicians at once. In addition to the tenor saxophone,
his instrumental arsenal included the manzello (a
cousin to the soprano) and the stritch (a modified
straight alto); he got his lips around all three
mouthpieces and managed to play the instruments
simultaneously. Sometimes he added a flute or a siren
whistle for good measure. 

There were no such feats of multitasking on Wednesday
night. Instead, there were those three guys — Billy
Harper on tenor saxophone, Vincent Herring on alto and
Dave Valentin on flute — and a rhythm section led by
the pianist Mulgrew Miller. Mr. Turre, who apprenticed
with Mr. Kirk in the 1970’s, played trombone
exclusively, at least in the second set; he didn’t
touch any of the conch shells arrayed on a music stand
at the lip of the stage. 

Opening with the minor blues “Three for the Festival,”
the band established an appropriately headlong
sensibility, along with a fondly obeisant tone. Behind
Mr. Turre’s brash yet controlled solo, Mr. Herring and
Mr. Harper played a close-harmonized background
fillip, as Mr. Kirk would have done. During a solo by
Mr. Valentin replete with spluttering accents and
vocalized moans, Mr. Turre cued a stop-time pattern in
the rhythm section, as Mr. Kirk usually did on that
particular song. 

The rest of the set was similarly evocative, and just
as exuberant. “Handful of Fives” prompted a brightly
polyrhythmic swing in quintuple meter. On “Dorthaan’s
Walk,” a swaggering shuffle, Mr. Turre used the last
phrase of Mr. Harper’s strong solo as a springboard
for his own improvisation. After Mr. Miller’s solo in
the same song, the horns re-entered with a blistering
interjection: six emphatic quarter notes, followed by
a pair of bluesy turns. It was classic Kirk, and the
audience was generous in its response.

Perhaps to avoid offending that audience, Mr. Turre
prefaced the set’s closer, “Volunteered Slavery,” with
an explanation: it was about any situation that we
choose to be trapped in, he said, like some day jobs.
Then he led the band in a rousing backbeat vamp; Todd
Barkan, the artistic manager of Dizzy’s Club
Coca-Cola, hopped onstage to play a tambourine. 

Mr. Barkan stayed on after the last downbeat to
announce that the club’s after-hours set would
spotlight Bright Moments, a Rahsaan Roland Kirk
tribute led by the baritone saxophonist Claire Daly,
featuring the pianist Sonelius Smith, a Kirk alumnus.
After a set break, that group began its performance
with “Theme for the Eulipions,” featuring vocals by
Paul Gordon, a poet, and Napoleon Maddox, a beat-box

As Mr. Turre had done, Ms. Daly honored Mr. Kirk’s
music without trying to summon his inimitable persona.
Her set did include a siren whistle, played by the
vibraphonist Warren Smith. But her playing was
deep-rooted in her own personality, ceding nothing to
Mr. Kirk except respect, and plenty of it.

The program continues through tomorrow at Dizzy’s Club
Coca-Cola, Frederick P. Rose Hall, Jazz at Lincoln
Center, 60th Street and Broadway, (212) 258-9595.

Roy Durfee
P.O. Box 40219
Albuquerque, New Mexico 87196-0219
rdurfee2003 at yahoo.com

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