Utopian Turtletop. Monsieur Croche's Bête Noire. Contact: turtletop [at] hotmail [dot] com

Thursday, December 09, 2004


A few months ago I posted something about liking seasonal music. Now it’s Christmastime, and the Christmas music is out and about and all around.

I never hear it on the radio, so I’m glad to have it on CD -- Roland Kirk’s arrangement of “We Three Kings,” retitled “We Free Kings,” from the early ‘60s.

Kirk’s version starts with a propulsive 6/8 bass riff over a hopped-up version of Elvin-esque drums, immediately confirming Kirk’s unheralded status as a great bandleader. Throughout his career he had an almost matchless gift for propelling otherwise unsung players into fire-sparking hard-swinging ensembles.

Once the amped-up Coltrane-ish groove is established, Kirk comes in on 2 or 3 reeds playing a Miles-ian, Kind-of-Blue-ish riff. After a brief pause, Kirk on flute plays the main melody. For the “star of wonder, star of light” bridge, Kirk switches to his soprano-sax-like horn. (Kirk played obscure members of the saxophone family, often 2 or 3 at once, and I can never remember whether Kirk’s stritch is soprano-like and his manzello alto-like, or vice versa.) He solos on both flute and his soprano-ish sax with his terrific verve and invention. Some piano solo, back to the Miles-ian sax riff, and out.

A wonderful record: High energy all the way, a tremendous jolt, a shot of that old-time awesome religion. I’m never one to scorn merriment, and this is even further out there on the scale of joy.

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