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Music / Rahsaan Roland Kirk

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Rahsaan Roland Kirk holding his tenor saxophone, stritch, & manzello, while playing a conch shell.

I didn't ask my mother to buy me a trumpet or a violin, I started right on the water hose.
—Rahsaan Roland Kirk

Rahsaan Roland Kirk (August 7, 1935 - December 5, 1977) was a jazz multi-instrumentalist who played (including, but not limited to)... the tenor saxophone, clarinet, flute, nose flute, cor anglais, keyboards, and percussion, among other things. He was a virtuosic improviser whose outspoken, unpredictable, and often comic onstage presence was seen by some as a gimmick. Oh, and did we mention that he's blind?



  • Concept Album: Kirk's 1975 album The Case of the 3 Sided Dream in Audio Color is a concept album in which he talks to the voices that he hears in his dreams, at one point discussing the growing trend of computers in society, through a chorus of several different overlapping recordings of Kirk's voice.
  • Electronic Music: Kirk incorporated elements of musique concrète in his albums, especially The 3 Sided Dream, where environmental tape loops, recordings of other artists, and backwards tapes can be heard.
  • Epic Rocking: Kirk's circular breathing ability allowed him to play saxophone without stopping to take a breath for extended periods of time.
    • On the song "Saxophone Concerto" from his album Prepare Thyselves To Deal With A Miracle, Kirk plays non-stop for over 20 minutes.
  • Everything Is an Instrument: Kirk is no stranger to this idea.
    • One of Kirk's instruments was one he dubbed the black mystery pipes, which was really just a section of a garden hose that he managed to play.
    • Whistles, alarm clocks, and sirens were not uncommon during concerts.
  • Long Title: Not uncommon for Kirk's song/albums.
    • On the album Natural Black Inventions: Root Strata, he has a song titled The Ragman and the Junkman Ran from the Businessman They Laughed and He Cried.
  • Meaningful Rename: Kirk was born "Ronald Theodore Kirk", but he soon changed his first name to "Roland" after being driven by a dream that he had. Later, he added "Rahsaan" to his name after hearing it in another dream.
  • New Sound Album: Kirk's sound over his career varied, moving from bebop, to swing, to soul jazz, to hard bop, to free jazz, and back again.

Alternative Title(s): Roland Kirk