Roland Kirk

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"Rahsaan" Roland Kirk, born: Ronald T. Kirk (August 7, 1936, Columbus, OH - December 5, 1977, Bloomington, IN), is name-checked on the cover of "Freak Out!" (1966) under the heading "These People Have Contributed Materially In Many Ways To Make Our Music What It Is. Please Do Not Hold It Against Them".

I met him backstage at the Boston Jazz Festival and asked him to play with us if he was interested in our music. Then, during our set, led by his attendant, he came up to the stage. As you know he's blind, but his body understood all of our signals. At one point everybody in the band was supposed to get down on their back and kick their feet in the air while they still keep playing. As soon as we got on our back, he also got his back. When we got up, he also got up. He grasped everything. He is an excellent musician. Three weeks later we played together again at the Florida Jazz Festival.

Frank Zappa interviewed in New Music Magazine (April 1976)

Exhilarating multi-reed playing jazz musician, sideman with Charles Mingus (name-checked on the cover of "Freak Out!") in 1960, and the leader of his own groups until suffering a stroke in 1976. Arguably the most exciting saxophone soloist in jazz history, Kirk was a post-modernist before that term even existed. Kirk played the continuum of jazz tradition as an instrument unto itself; he felt little compunction about mixing and matching elements from the music's history, and his concoctions usually seemed natural, if not inevitable. Kirk was born with sight, but became blind at the age of two.

He is also mentioned in "The Real Frank Zappa Book" (1989): "The first time we played with Rahsaan Roland Kirk was at the 1968 Boston Globe Jazz Festival. After his performance, when introduced to him backstage, I said I really liked what he was doing, and said that if he felt like joining us onstage during our set, he was more than welcome. In spite of his blindness, I believed we could accommodate whatever he wanted to do. We began our set, wending our atonal way toward a medley of 1950s-style honking saxophone numbers. During this fairly complicated, choreographed routine, Rahsaan, assisted by his helper (can't remember his name), decided to join in. In 1969, George Wein, impresario of the Newport Jazz Festival, decided it would be a tremendous idea to put the Mothers of Invention on a jazz tour of the East Coast. We wound up working in a package with Kirk, Duke Ellington and Gary Burton in Miami at the Jai Alai Fronton, and at another gig in South Carolina."