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Bright Moments: The Life and Legacy of Rahsaan Roland Kirk Hardcover – 2000


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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

Kruth, a musician and journalist, has written the first full-length biography of multi-instrumental jazz icon Kirk (1936-77). Using dozens of interviews and a just-unearthed audio autobiography narrated by Kirk, Kruth traces Kirk's life from his childhood in Columbus, OH, to his mid-career vocal black-power stance, to his debilitating stroke and premature death in the mid-1970s. Throughout, Kruth highlights Kirk's pioneering efforts--such as his reintroduction of the stritch and manzello saxophones and his innovative circular breathing that enabled him to play several instruments simultaneously. Though he sometimes overstates Kirk's admittedly prodigious talents, Kruth offers a revealing biography that captures a complex jazz artist. He portrays Kirk as an original steeped in tradition, open to all types of sound but critical of rock'n'roll, a jolly prankster who humiliated his audiences, and a serious jazz player who destroyed chairs as part of his stage act. This engaging biography about an often-neglected talent will be welcomed by general readers as well as jazz scholars.
-David P. Szatmary, Univ. of Washington, Seattle
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

Kruth brings a musician's appreciation to Kirk's genius, rendering life to a biography of a man who was larger than life. For insight into a man whose talent was often underappreciated because of the excesses of his stage performances, Kruth interviewed Kirk's contemporaries--Quincy Jones, Yusef Lateef, Sonny Rollins. Kirk, blind since childhood, brought a particular sensitivity to what he preferred to call black classical music rather than jazz. His competitive instincts, coupled with a voracious appetite for food and other excesses of the time, rendered Kirk a big, blind black man, unapologetic and outspoken. Kirk recognized and resented the disparate treatment between the creators of the music and the popular imitators who benefited from the art form. Kruth commands the uninitiated reader to explore Kirk's muse, and those more familiar with the man to revisit Kirk's adventures through sound. Freed by his death from the distractions of his persona and stage performances, Kirk's bright moments--the music he played without bounds or limitations--shine through. Vernon Ford
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 404 pages
  • Publisher: Welcome Rain Publishers; 1 edition (2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1566491053
  • ISBN-13: 978-1566491051
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.3 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.7 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,532,827 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

17 of 18 people found the following review helpful By D. A Reichley on March 20, 2000
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I applaud and thank Mr. Kruth for being the one to finally get down to business and try and write a book on this great man. However, what I feel to be a fairly disorganized book, with amateurish writing, predominantly conveyed though a "fan's" voice (with Rahsaan as musical "hero") ultimately does not measure up to the enormous contribution Rahsaan Roland Kirk made both as a musician and as a human spirit walking this earth, spreading the gospel of truth and love. I wouldn't want to dissuade anyone from reading this book - for those who don't know anything about Rahsaan or his music, this may very well be their introduction. But some of us needed a book that would try to go deeper. It's great to hear Sonny Rollins, a peer of Rahsaan's and a musical giant as well, give the man his "props", but Mr. Kruth seemingly chose to include the comments of any and everybody who had even the slightest bit of contact with the man. Indeed, the expressions of astonishment over Rahsaan's virtuosity (as well as his sometimes outrageousness) became redundant and rather tedious to read after awhile. What I hoped for from this book was a crucial (and critical) biography which would tell the STORY of this strange and wonderful character, and one which would "fill in the holes". What I read was (mostly) a well-intentioned but fairly messy book of tributes, which therefore fell short of the mark for me. However, if it will get more people listening to Rahsaan, more power to it. It sure made me pull my Rahsaan records off the shelf!
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful By TheBandit VINE VOICE on January 6, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Sorry to say, this biography is not very well written. I love Rahsaan's music and I was excited to learn more about his life as well as his art. I didn't really get much information from this book. Somebody noted that it seems like a three hundred page magazine article, and that about nails it. Yes, also as noted- there are endless (and VERY repetitious) quotes from just about everyone the author could interview.
There is no real structure or organization to this book. And it is kind of a 'puff-piece', offering no critique or analysis of Kirk's work. There is no examination of his method of working. If you're a fan, it's the only real option since there are no other books about this great musician.
For the price of this book you can buy a couple Kirk cds. Do that and find this book at the library.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 21, 2001
Format: Hardcover
I encountered this book when I ducked into a library on a sweltering day while on vacation. The title attracted me because of its association with Kirk. Lo and behold, it was about Roland Kirk! I sat down with it and was immediately pulled in. The book is mostly anecdotal which means you get to enjoy many "voices" but it does occasionally get confusing because people refer to people you haven't been introduced to and much of what is said is repeated by others throughout the book. It must have been a bear organizing the stuff. Still..Kirk was simply amazing and if you love to read liner notes on jazz albums, well this is like reading one giant liner note, worthy of a giant boxed set. Lots of fun and you have to be inspired by the man's spirit.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Steve Robinson on February 11, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Bright Moments is opening this book and discovering that the author has captured the spirit and essence of this great musician. As someone who had the great honor of knowing him, I can assure you that Mr. Kruth has painted a strong, vivid and honest portrait of Rahsaan. It moved me to tears.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 24, 2000
Format: Hardcover
It is truly sad that this is the only Rahshaan Roland Kirk bio. It really has very little biographical information beyond the day he was born and the day he died. There is little or no mention of what his parents were like, his multiple wives and divorces, his children, his education. What it does contain is anecdote after anecdote after anecdote. These can be very intertesting and very repetitive. In fact, the author repeats himself so many times I felt like the record was skipping. Also, you get the feeling that John Kruth wrote the whole thing in one sitting with practically no editing. This book should have been an excellent artcile in some jazz mag. Instead, it is a sad presentation of Kirk's fascinating life and the only bio we have. For that reason alone I would reccomend it to the hard-core Kirk fans (and you must be one if you're taking the time to read this). Otherwise turn on the TV.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Tyler Smith on July 14, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Most of the remarks about this book are, to me, puzzling and seem to indicate that the readers don't know very much about the musical life of this great artist.
Musical biographies should do one thing: shed light on what in the artist's life led to his or her particular conception. Do I care who Rahsaan's parents were? What they did? What kind of food his sister liked? Not necessarily; only in connection to the work that he ultimately produced. We should also ask, of course, why we should care about the artist's contributions to music as a whole, and his or her effect on society at large. Kruth attempts to do both.
He chooses to treat his subject primarily from the vantage point of the musicians who influenced him and the people upon whom he had an influence. Not surprisingly, the opinions expressed are strong, and mostly favorable. Anyone who reads the book should have no doubt as to the force of Rahsaan's music and the forces of the mid to late '60s that helped produce it. Rahsaan emerged as a musical hero to many of us who came of age during that time when music seemed to be, as Coltrane said, "a force for real good." How strange that sounds in 2004.
The latter, then, may be the greatest flaw of the book. Those, like me, who saw Rahsaan perform and who own most, if not all, of his recorded music, will understand the testimonials to the power of his art and the force of his personality. Those who haven't bothered to investigate his music in depth won't get it. Those who have not listened carefully to his work will not understand the success he had in melding the "black classical music" of jazz, as he called it, with pop influences. In that sense, Kruth may have failed, if his effort is to bring additional listeners to Rahsaan's music.
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