Radio Nights – Cannonball AdderleyThe Man Who Cried Fire – Rahsaan Roland Kirk
Once a producer of unusually ambitious records for jazz and pop artists,
Joel Dorn has found a second career phase as a vault digger. In addition to
reissuing castoffs from Atlantic's catalog, Dorn has pieced together
posthumous albums for "populist" (as he terms it) jazz artists such as
Adderley and Kirk, projects intended as "documentaries."
His vision of being an "auteur" was reasonable when his artists were alive,
but slightly questionable after the fact. Taken to an extreme, the notion
suggests representing his motives as those of the artist — in other words,
bootlegging. Those who've read my work will know that I'm a fan and
collector of archival recordings, but these things are not so good when they
pretend to be something they aren't.
Ultimately, though, these albums don't represent the artists in a light they
wouldn't have been likely to choose, although they do suffer in the quality
department: bootleg-quality sound, untitled or misidentified tracks (on
Adderley's disc, "Midnight Mood" becomes "Midnight Move") and incomplete
performances are common.
Adderley's disc documents his group at work. By this time, the legendary
Parker disciple's style had taken on both heavy funk elements and some of
the searching of his one-time bandmate John Coltrane. At times, things get
a bit too "populist" (his vibrato on "Stars Fell On Alabama" is rather
wide), but like most of his records, this disc demonstrates his command over
both the blues and modal outings. Radio Nights also provides a rare
glimpse of a mostly "unplugged" Joe Zawinul on piano, as well as featuring
Charles Lloyd (going even further into Coltrane territory) on a few cuts.
Kirk is often better known for his gimmicks (odd instruments, extended
techniques) than his playing: a style as funky as Adderley's but so
voraciously beboppy that it verges on "out" playing. This disc is more of a
documentary than Adderley's, often cutting from Kirk's speech to (sometimes
frustatingly short) illustrative musical fragments. "You Did It You Did It"
is a singing-through-the-flute demonstration that makes Ian Anderson's
playing sound downright tasteful, but several blues workouts fare better.
Both discs make decent introductions to the artist at hand — but be sure to
be aware of the stories behind them, or else try one of their
personally-sanctioned releases instead.