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October 02, 2008

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Ian

"Rip, Rig and Panic," "Inflated Tear" and Mingus's Rahsaan-heavy "Oh Yeah" were three of my favorite records when I was in college--even though I haven't listened to them lately, I think they'd hold up pretty well against my more "mature" faves. (Come for the crazy multi-instrumentalism, stay for the swinging melodic ingenuity.)

Kent

B-L-A-C-K--N-U-S-S. Ah, that takes me back. I have a bunch of Rahsaan on vinyl which I haven't listened to in decades, nor transferred to digital.

Thanks to your tireless research, I now have some digital links to renew my love of this great musician. I never saw him in concert, but I'm fortunate to have bought his music on original issues. I thought he was as exciting as Miles Davis in his fusion period, which was happening at the same time.

Thanks for pointing out that some of his mannerisms are attributable to his lack of eyesight. What a load of bling he had to carry to create his style of music.

Bob Curtin

I think RRK is underrated nowadays for several reasons. His multi-instrumentalist approach makes him sui generis -- you could list him as one of the great tenor players, but he's more than that. And his happy bounding across stylistic lines makes him pretty much uncategorizable from that angle as well. His forays into pop tunes also probably led a few to dismiss him as a sell-out or novelty.

But if you're trying to get a non-jazz person interested in AGAF (America's Greatest Art Form), RRK was always a great starting point. Who could help but be intrigued by the visual, or the junk-collector's approach to instrumentation? And back in the 1970s, when I got interested in jazz, many of my teen peers who were searching for something beyond top-40 pop were looking into groups such as Jethro Tull. I hooked a few on the We Free Kings album, asking them if they wanted to hear where Ian Anderson's flute playing came from.

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  • Marc Myers writes frequently on music and the arts for the Wall Street Journal. He is author of "Why Jazz Happened" (University of California Press). In 2012, JazzWax was named the Jazz Journalists Association's "Blog of the Year."
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