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The Arts Foundation Of Olde Towne is a neighborhood based, Arts & Humanities incubator that serves to host and produce projects that are about, or initiated by residents from the Near East Area of the City Of Columbus, Ohio.

The Bruce Woody Trio


Ronald Rahsaan Roland Kirk
Birth:August 7, 1936 - Death: 1977
Birthplace: Columbus, Ohio
Instrument: saxophone, flute, stritch, pennywhistle, manzello, trumpet and composer
Description: Rahsaan in an early photo with three horns. Rahsaan was born Ronald Kirk on August 7, 1936, in Columbus, Ohio. Blinded at the age of two, able to see nothing but light, he was educated at the Columbus School for the Blind. At an early age Kirk began to show an interest in music. He had an uncle who played the piano and he would toot along on the garden hose. Kirk's mother taught him to play the bugle and by the age of nine he had progressed to the trumpet; however, he was forced to abandon this instrument after a doctor advised him that the pressure of blowing the horn would strain his eyes. At the age of 12 he began playing the saxophone and the clarinet with the school band. By the age of 13 he had chosen the saxophone. Aside from his involvement with the school band, Kirk taught himself to play. At the age of 15, in 1951, Kirk began playing in Boyd Moore's Band, which was well known in Columbus. It was during his connection with this band, at the age of 16, that Kirk had a dream that would alter the course of his musical career. He dreamed that he was playing three instruments at once. The next day he went to a music shop and tried out all the reed instruments. Among the old "scraps," he found two old saxophones used at the turn of the century in Spanish military bands. Kirk made alterations to the instruments with tape and rubber bands, working out a way that he could play them simultaneously with his tenor saxophone. He later named one instrument a Stritch (resembles a soprano saxophone but sounded like an alto) and the other a Manzello (resembles an alto saxophone in construction but sounds like a soprano).The result was three-part harmony. Kirk took his new style and headed for L.A. Slowly he became well known throughout the country. In 1956 Kirk made his very first album which went, for the most part, unnoticed. His next recording was made in 1960 and was noticed. The album caused quite a bit of controversy, with Kirk being accused of gimmickry. Frustrated by these remarks, Kirk was said to have responded that he heard sirens and things in his head when he played. Kirk continued to record, and then he met and played with Charles Mingus at the Five Spot in New York. He also played on Mingus' album Oh Yeah. Kirk toured Europe twice, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. In the early 1970s Kirk became the leader of the Jazz and People's Movement, an organization that attempted to open new avenues for jazz performance or, as Kirk called it, Black Classical Music. He was noted for being vocal about things happening within the music industry and is quoted as saying he could not talk about these situations with a smile. In the 1970s Kirk recorded his politically oriented song, “Bright Moments” which achieved commercial success. He also scored and performed the music for a television series on the history of the modern civil rights struggle, Rush Toward Freedom. In 1977 Kirk suffered a stroke which left one side of his body paralyzed. However, after a short recovery period, he continued to perform with one arm, even touring internationally and founding the Vibration School of Music for Saxophonists. After playing two concerts at Indiana University, Kirk suffered a second stroke. This one proved to be fatal. Kirk died on Monday, December 5, 1979 in Bloomington, Indiana. It is said that Kirk was frustrated by his hometown of Columbus, Ohio, because no one there seemed to be aware of his accomplishments. However, he had much to be proud of in his lifetime. Kirk won many awards, including the International Jazz Critics Poll, Melody Makers Poll and the Downbeat Readers Poll, and his politics had a major impact on modern music.

Story by: William T. McDaniel

For a glossy print of this image refer to ID# ARC10-28

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