The Inflated Tear
(Nov. 27th and 30th, 1967, Atlantic SC 1502 1968 / Atlantic Jazz 7 90045-2)
- “The Black and Crazy Blues 6:07
- A Laugh for Rory 2:54
- Many Blessings 4:45
- Fingers in the Wind 4:18
- The Inflated Tear 4:58
- The Creole Love Call 3:53
- A Handful of Fives 2:42
- Fly by Night 4:19
- Lovellevelliloqui 4:17
- I’m Glad There is You (CD bonus) 2:12
Rahsaan Roland Kirk (1936–1977) was a blind woodwind player, composer and bandleader known for his performances on both traditional and self-made instruments, his encyclopedic knowledge of jazz history, his sense of humor on and off the bandstand, and his formidable technical abilities on flute and saxophone that remained so even after suffering a serious stroke. Though he never recorded what one might call a free jazz album proper, his soloing and compositions contained elements of both composition and free improvisation, and his music is performed/collected enthusiastically by those seriously engaged with the art of free jazz. This recording, though created during the formative years of American free improvisation, seems to stand apart.
Of particular interest to the listener are the tracks The Inflated Tear and Creole Love Call, which demonstrate Kirk’s uncanny ability to play two to three saxophones and/or homemade instruments at once in a surprisingly elegant manner, considering the potentially vaudevillian quality of such a combination. The two horn statement at 0:45 of The Inflated Tear enters with the dry, haunting eloquence typical of the multiple themes and stylistic gestures that make up the compositional structure of the song. In high contrast to this opening statement is the lush tone that Kirk uses to play the main melody of the song, reminiscent of the breathy, intimate timbre of the great balladeers Lester Young and Dexter Gordon.
If The Inflated Tear contains no freely improvised material it certainly could be considered to be as aurally impactful, especially Kirk’s shouted statement accompanied by a dramatic drum roll at 3:55. Similarly The Creole Love Call, a mid-tempo blues number with a double horn theme, moves from more traditional sounding harmonic material in Kirk’s clarinet solo to guttural blues shouting at 2:08 directly into shrieking, Albert Ayler-esque tenor saxophone stylings at 2:15 and back to the blues, demonstrating Kirk’s ability to synthesize and contextualize multiple styles of music within a single composition. Ken Vandermark, in the liner notes to his recording “Free Jazz Classics: Vol. 3 & 4”, discusses Kirk’s stylistic multiplicity by stating “…this is why he may be somewhat overlooked today, and why he may have had such an influence on my thinking. After all, how do you categorize his music? Is it hard bop (Three for the Festival), soul (Volunteered Slavery), avant garde (The Inflated Tear) – none, or all of the above?” Vandermark later states that perhaps, like Charles Mingus calling his music “Mingus Music”, that Kirk’s music might be called “Rahsaan Music”, as he was an artist beyond category (Vandermark: liner notes, Atavistic ALP170CD). Perhaps his ability to play multiple idioms simultaneously makes him omni-idiomatic or trans-idiomatic; a non-idiom of all idioms combined.