Balm In Gilead

Rahsaan Roland Kirk

The great Rahsaan gives an example of his
unique greatness

It is very fortunate that films exist of Rahsaan Roland Kirk for one cannot fully appreciate his musical genius without seeing what he could really do.

At the 1972 Montreux Jazz Festival, Kirk performs a version of “Balm In Gilead” that sounds similar to Duke Ellington’s “Black And Tan Fantasy.”

First he states the melody while playing two saxophones and a clarinet together, forming his own horn section.

Along the way, Rahsaan takes a clarinet solo that is a little reminiscent of Barney Bigard and Russell Procope (if they had mastered circular breathing), has a brief moment playing some rambunctious tenor, closes the piece with his horn section, and engages in some free-form blowing with his band.

This brief performance lets one know that Rahsaan Roland Kirk was on a different level altogether than virtually anyone else.


Rahsaan Roland Kirk, clarinet, tenor, stritch, manzello
Ron Burton, piano
Pete Pearson, bass
Robert Shy, drums
Joe Texidor, percussion

– Scott Yanow