Multi-instrumentalist Roland Kirk (1935-1977) is one of the great jazz legends: not only was he a specialist in playing multiple instruments at the same time, he was also more than a formidable force during jam sessions. As a tenor saxophonist he was almost unbeatable, witness hisperformance in January 1974 in Carnegie Hall in which he shows colleague George Adams all corners of the room. His own oeuvre varies in quality, but his recordings for the Mercury label in particular have stood the test of time.
It is daring to give a new impulse to this special music. The irony is that you need three horns to get close to this musical hero. Under the motto 'Reeds & Deeds' - one of the most famous albums by Kirk - Frans Vermeerssen, Bo van de Graaf and Alex Coke have visited various Dutch and Belgian stages over the past two years. Behind the grandpiano we find keyboard giant Michiel Braam, who forms an irresistible rhythm section with double bass player Arjen Gorter and drummer Makki van Engelen. The repertoire is a mix of Kirk's Mercury, Verve and Atlantic recordings, the labels with which he had commitments throughout his career. The arrangements largely follow the original versions, but the playing pleasure is no less. The themes often consist ofpowerfully played chords for three wind players, sometimes with the typical high piccolo by Coke as an extra accent. Pianist Braam is in top form and tackles the grand piano: his intro on 'Gifts and Messages' is exciting and the drive he creates with his rhythm teeth on 'Three for the Festival' is almost merciless.
The flute solo by Coke on the loving 'Steppin' into Beauty 'is beautiful. In 'The Haunted Melody' Vermeerssen hits the listener deep in the heart with his sensitive play on soprano saxophone.
The main element is of course the struggle between the tenor saxophonists that pops up in various places, such as in the hardbop-like 'Silverization', the primordial cry of 'Inflated Tear' and the closing track'Vertigo Ro'. The great thing is that pianist Braam manages to do a hefty scoop on top of the tenor battle during this last song. What a huge force that man can generate with his piano playing!
The Reeds & Deeds ensemble is not only one of the most exciting live events of the moment, but their outright impressive CD can already be counted among the canons of Dutch jazz: an album that you cannot ignore.
Cyriel Pluimakers, JazzEnzo