Jun 15, 2016
2016 has been a good year for jazz films, from the biopics on Miles Davis and Chet Baker to documentaries like I Called Him Morgan. The latest addition is Adam Kahan’s The Case of the Three Sided Dream, a documentary on the life and times of Rahsaan Roland Kirk. Released in early May on just recently available on iTunes, and had a special screening at the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, Texas last week.
Rahsaan Roland Kirk(1935-1977) was one of several jazz artists – think of John Coltrane, Albert Ayler and Eric Dolphy – who in many ways created the Sixties’ image of the jazz artist as spiritual leader. A seminal figure in the Avant-Garde, he pioneered the use of circular breathing to play as many as three saxophones simultaneously. Blind from birth, he discovered and integrated unusual instruments into his sound, including the nose flute and siren.
Ridiculed as much as revered by the general audience, many found Kirk’s onstage theatrics and dress merely window-dressing, rather than components of his complex persona. He was a man of intense will, who not only followed his own muse musically, but had a cutting wit and a strong sense of politics. It was this kind of will that allowed him to overcome a stroke at the age of 40, returning to the stage playing with one hand. A second stroke felled him at the age of 42.
Filmmaker Adam Kahan has labored over the film for more thana dozen years, leaving the project and returning a number of times. The Case of the Three Sided Dream premiered at the 2014 South by Southwest film festival and went on to win Best Documentary at the 2015 Pan African Film Festival in Los Angeles, as well as Best Documentary at the 2015 Soundtrack Cologne festival in Cologne, Germany. It was also named one of the top ten music documentaries of 2014 by Nonfics.com. While The Case of the Three Sided Dream is his first feature, he has also made a number of short documentaries on contemporary visual artists that have played on national television and in festivals internationally
I believe the film will go a long toward establishing Kirk as the major musical visionary he truly became. Packed with electrifying archival footage of Kirk and his music, intimate interviews, and inspired animated sequences, the film allows us a rare chance to get into the world of this legend. It’s no wonder that almost forty years after his death, his influence is still being felt, and his compositions continue to be played.
Podcast 539 is my conversation with Adam Kahan, featuring musical selections from the inimitable Rahssan Roland Kirk, including "Kirk's Works", "Blue Roi", "Serende to a Cuckoo" and "The Inflated Tear".