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Rahsaan Roland Kirk: Dog Years in the Fourth Ring

Just as Rahsaan Roland Kirk was beyond category, so is Dog Years In The Fourth Ring, as it is neither a straight-up reissue or a compilation pegged to chronology or context. This imaginatively packaged three-disc set combines 18 previously unissued tracks from the ’60s and ’70s (including a “Rahsaantalk,” a recollection of a childhood friend, and a half-minute jam with a real howling wolf) with the long unavailable ’71 Atlantic solo album, Natural Black Inventions: Root Strata. With few exceptions, the new material is engaging; heard in tandem with Kirk’s daring real-time solo pieces, they flesh out a high-contrast portrait of this singular artist.

The six performances dating from the ’60s were recorded with blue-chip European rhythm sections. A ’64 Bremen concert with pianist George Gruntz, bassist Niels-Henning Orsted Pedersen and drummer Daniel Humair yielded a tart “Domino,” a solid “Blues for Alice,” a touching “I Remember Clifford” and swinging takes of “Sister Sadie” and “Three for the Festival” (the latter fades out after Kirk’s fascinating flute and voice cadenza, one of the set’s few questionable edits). An uptempo “Freddie Freeloader” was recorded at a ’63 Copenhagen concert with pianist Tete Montoliu, NHOP, and drummer Alex Riel. Clocking in at between three and eight minutes, each of these tracks has a crisp, concise quality that echoes Kirk’s contemporaneous studio recordings for Mercury.

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