Rahsaan Roland Kirk

Roland Kirk and Sun Ra are what I’ve been most into in the last five years. Both aren’t academic jazz people, they’re totally earthy and natural, like ancient, somehow, but very modern at the same time. The sound is muddy. If I had to pick one person as my hero, I’d have to say Kirk : He plays brass, for one, which has always been a soft spot for me, and he plays in a very intuitive way as opposed to with brains. He plays songs that are like pop songs, they’re so simple, but at the same time, are mind- expanding experiences. It’s not too much of any- thing but has got all the extremes. He plays freejazz that a five-year-old kid would understand, that anyone could get into, which is something I always like.

Pick five Roland Kirk and five Sun Ra albums and you’ll probably have my favourite record. But if you’re forcing me to pick one, it’s Kirk’s The Inflated Tear. It’s at the brilliant stage in his life, before he got too much into fusion, which I don’t like, when he was getting really basic, back to roots. The title track is about when he was two years old, and had some eye disease, and was living in this black ghetto. He had this white nurse who didn’t really have time to take good care of him, and gave him the wrong medicine for his eyes, which blinded him for life. The song is based on memory : he could remember the last minute he saw and the first minute he couldn’t.

Q magazine, no10, 1993