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Rahsaan Roland Kirk: The Man Who Cried Fire

Hyena is the newest outlet for long-time Rahsaan Roland Kirk producer Joel Dorn’s archive of live recordings by the great multi-instrumentalist. While The Man Who Cried Fire is still occasionally sighted in its original incarnation on Dorn’s Night imprint, it nevertheless merits another round of kudos for capturing Kirk’s infectious spirit. The undated tracks sported a well-sequenced mix of Kirk classics like “The Black and Crazy Blues,” three-horn tour de forces and such seldom-heard facets of his music as a slow clarinet blues. Additionally, Kirk was vigorously supported by a shifting complement of musicians linchpinned by pianist Hilton Ruiz, and benefited by a few walk-ons, particularly trombonist Steve Turre’s on the pungent “A Visit From the Blues.”

Recorded in 1974, Compliments of the Mysterious Phantom is even better. Backed by a unit including Ruiz, Henry Pearson (a fine exponent of the busy bass playing Stanley Clarke and others made fashionable in the ’70s) and the percussion tandem of John Goldsmith and Samson Verge, Kirk is frequently stunning. The set has a bigger portion of Kirk staples like “Volunteered Slavery,” “Bright Moments” and “Old Rugged Cross.” Yet, they come later in the program, after two unexpected gems-a meltdown intense take on McCoy Tyner’s “Passion Dance” and a stunning deconstruction of “My One and Only Love”-set a seemingly unsustainable pace. Yet even Kirk’s most frequently heard works have the rare ability to instill a first-time thrill in the listener, and that’s the case here.

Originally Published