Baker's Dozen

Artists discuss the 13 records that shaped their lives

3. Rahsaan Roland KirkThe Return Of The 5000lb. Man

Roland Kirk! Roland Kirk is a very different story to Gerry Mulligan: Roland Kirk is one of a kind, and a lot of young people might not know him… I think only jazz lovers really know him. And most of them, when they know him, they know certain records but they don’t know The Return Of The 5000lb. Man.

It’s crazy, but he’s a kind of calculated crazy, like Andy Kaufmann – somebody who is just insane in a controlled way: mechanically insane. And he’s also a voodoo priest-type musician; he plays up to three saxophones at the same time and has circular breathing. He’s an absolute machine – so much physical force. That’s really what I learned from him, you know? I work out to be able to stretch to reach the piano and the other piano over there; how do you hold three heavy saxophones, put them all in your mouth and blow them all?

He was always giving, putting much more than you think is possible into the music, and then he combines that kind of talent with a fearlessness I really like in musicians – when they’re not afraid, when they totally rely on their magic and they risk much more than anybody else without ruining the music, but always giving the impression that it could fail at every second. You’re always on the edge of your seat. And on the other hand you know, you know, okay, he’s good – he’s not going to fuck this up. He plays sometimes a solo for three minutes and he doesn’t breathe which is so insane. Every teacher tells you "always remember to breathe", because breathing is human spacing, it makes music feel human, Roland Kirk just said: "Hey, that’s boring, everyone does that."

In the 70s he was dressing like this voodoo priest and creating performances that were transcendent. People say that about my shows, but it isn’t true, these were something else. He made people sweat when they were standing in the cold. People like Miles Davis didn’t really get it, they thought he was kind of a joke because he wasn’t just playing the saxophone; he was playing whistles and bells and was this kind of intellectual hippie.

He was like the Allen Ginsberg of jazz.

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