Rahsaan Roland Kirk

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A new email list has been established to focus on Rahsaan Roland Kirk. To discuss the music, the man, the legends, to meet like-minded folks, and all that.

I know, I know - another jazz mailing list? But wait - this one is different.

Of prime significance is the active involvement of George Bonifacio <CHINACATGB@aol.com>, who has amassed the most extensive collection of Kirk materials in existence (he was the source of the live material released by Joel Dorn and 32 Jazz on "Dog Years In The Fourth Ring").

George has developed a plan to create a RRK research archive with recordings (numbering in the hundreds), complete discography, bibliography, chronology, etc. This is a truly revolutionary proposal that hopefully will set a standard for all jazz research. He is very interested in getting assistance and in sharing his efforts with the world, both now and in the future. A planned website (improving immensely on this one) is just the beginning.

Please subscribe to get the lowdown on the above project, the biography "Bright Moments" by John Kruth (who is also on the list), which is scheduled to be published this week (January 17, 2000), and all other matters related to the Rahsaanissance. Just send an email to:


George and I (along with Dorthaan Kirk, Dan Morgenstern, and many others) were in attendance at a presentation by John on January 13, 2000 at the Rutgers Institute of Jazz Studies where the biography was "unveiled" and there was a lot of energy and excitement about Rahsaan and his music. You don't want to miss out on the fun and fireworks that are sure to happen.

"These Bright Moments is for all the very wonderful people in the universe that has never known anything about Bright Moments so check it out."

A brief biography

by Michael Fitzgerald

Roland Kirk was born on August 7, 1935 (the frequently seen 1936 birthdate is incorrect). He lost his sight at an early age. "When I was one or two a nurse came into work drunk or high or mad at somebody and she slipped and put too much medicine in my eyes." Dreams played an important part in Kirk's life and musical development. He dreamed of playing two saxophones simultaneously and immediately set out to make this a reality. He found two antique saxophones in a pawn shop and christened them the manzello (a derivative of the soprano saxophone) and the stritch (a derivative of the straight alto saxophone). Along with the tenor, these comprised the "triple threat" mentioned in his first recording. Kirk was also a highly innovative flutist, using many unorthodox techniques in his playing, especially simultaneously singing and playing, his most famous example of which is "You Did It, You Did It" from We Free Kings, his first release for Mercury.

While the techniques that Kirk used were not his in origin (circular breathing is a necessity in playing the Australian aboriginal didjeridu and several performers played three clarinets at once as early as the 1920's), he brought musicality to these novelty tricks.

Another dream led to his adding the name "Rahsaan" around 1970.

Rahsaan was an activist in getting support for what he termed "Black Classical Music." He participated in several takeovers of television talk shows during which he would demand more exposure for black jazz artists.

His wife Dorthaan relates, "After suffering a cerebral vascular accident in November, 1975, it seemed that he would not regain the use of his right hand after several months of therapy. He, being the determined and strong-willed person he was, devised a method HIMSELF that enabled him to play his instruments with the use of only his left hand." Actively performing and recording, he made several tours and albums after this first stroke. He suffered another stroke and died in Bloomington, Indiana on December 5, 1977 at the age of 41. The Vibration Society, a tribute band, existed for a time after his death.

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