On the Ed Sullivan Show – 1971

Rahsaan Roland Kirk

A unique performance on one of the final Ed Sullivan television shows

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The remarkable Rahsaan Roland Kirk (a one-man horn section who could play any style while utilizing circular breathing) led a series of protests against television variety shows that did not feature black music.

Ed Sullivan relented and gave Kirk five minutes to play whatever he wanted.

The result is this unique version of “Haitian Fight Song” with a group that also includes tenor-saxophonist Archie Shepp, trumpeter Charles McGee, trombonist Dick Griffin, pianist Sonelius Smith, both Charles Mingus and Pete Pearson on basses, drummer Roy Haynes, and percussionists Joe Texidor and Maurice McKinley.

Highlights include a brief musical conversation between Kirk and Mingus, Shepp roaring over the ensemble, and the joyful expressions on the musicians’ faces; one would imagine that none them ever thought they would ever be on the Ed Sullivan Show.

Thanks to the Jazz Video Guy (Bret Primack) for making this very rare television clip available.

-Scott Yanow


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