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Dorthaan Kirk: Happy 75th, Rahsaan

Interview with saxophonist's widow about recent tribute in Austin and his legacy

Dorthaan Kirk and the mayor of East Orange, NJ, at the unveiling of "Rahsaan's star" on the East Orange Walk of Fame. Photo by Johanna Fee.

Dorthaan Kirk is a jazz luminary in her own right. In addition to her work as Special Events and Programs Coordinator at WBGO, Jazz 88 FM, where she has been since the station’s beginnings thirty years ago, she also serves on a myriad of committees, produces the Jazz Vespers series at Bethany Baptist Church in Newark, and has been the recipient of numerous awards for her community-based initiatives in the arts. On top of it all, she is the keeper of the flame of Rahsaan’s legacy.

I first met Dorthaan several years ago during the course of research for a book I’m writing about Rahsaan. Dorthaan and I got together again for a 75th birthday tribute to Rahsaan in Austin, Texas, at the Elephant Room–an event that I organized with her help. A local group, the Austin Jazz Workshop, performed Rahsaan’s music and were joined by special guests Steve Turre (trombonist and conch shells), Hannibal Lokumbe (trumpet player and composer), and poet Betty Neals who collaborated with Rahsaan on his song, “Theme for the Eulipions.” Also, Dorthaan generously provided gift bags that were filled with keepsakes and information about Rahsaan.

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