The Classic Rock Concerts I’ve Attended Vault™ — Rahsaan Roland Kirk Edition

Fast forward a few years to late 1976, and another nugget from my, “Classic Rock Concerts I’ve Attended Vault.” This little nugget comes from a small, local jazz club on 8 Mile Road where I took a date to see a jazz legend. On Thursday, September 23, 1976, I escorted my first serious girlfriend Kimberly Marie Nichter to Clarence Baker’s “Baker’s Keyboard Lounge” to see the late, great Rahsaan Roland Kirk. I was totally gassed to see this amazing artist, Kim not so much — in fact, not at all.

Kirk dedicated his set to the memory of John Coltrane who was born on that day in 1926 (Coltrane died of liver cancer on July 17, 1967, at the age of 40). His Coltrane medley was outstanding and featured several of Coltrane’s greatest compositions (e.g., Giant Steps, My Favorite Things, Afro Blue, etc.).

For those not in the know, Roland Kirk was an American jazz artist who played tenor saxophone, flute and many other wind instruments. He was renowned for his onstage vitality, during which virtuoso improvisation was accompanied by comic banter, political rants, and the ability to play several instruments simultaneously. Kirk could play two saxophones at once while playing an ocarina with his nose. In similar fashion I have listened to music on my headphones while ALSO cutting the lawn.

Kirk was born Ronald Theodore Kirk but felt compelled by a dream to transpose two letters in his first name to make it Roland. He became blind at an early age as a result of poor medical treatment. In 1970, Kirk added “Rahsaan” to his name after hearing it in a dream. Yes, after hearing it in a dream.

Allowed to bring his instruments on planes when traveling he would often play a single, never-ending note (Kirk was a master of circular breathing) in perfect pitch with the hum of the jet engine — much to the dismay of fellow passengers. His blindness and vivid dream life inspired many of his greatest artistic moments and he was a jazz musician and performance artist unlike anyone ever known. My blindness to the importance of true young love and lack of any vivid dreams to chase soon ended my torrid relationship with the beautiful and yet sublime Ms. Nichter. It took time but eventually neither of us looked back in anger. Well…at least I didn’t.