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February 05, 1970 - Image 2

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Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1970-02-05

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THE MICHIGAN DAISY

....

TH.ICIAM- ~i Th

ursday, February 5,_ 1970

theatre

records

4l

Cabaret' on the road:

Roland Kirk: 'High energy'

jazz and sex

A taste of wine gone sour

By JOHN ALLEN
When it was fresh and new,
the Third Reich mined its en-
thusiasm from the vein of glory
running through Mein Kampf.
And when Cabaret was fresh
and new it, too, had a vein of
glory running through it -
even if it was nothing more
than the grim fascination of in-
cipient Nazi Germany set to
music.
Alas.,
In the second act of Cabaret
Sally Bowles says, "Politics.
What's that got to do with us?"
A good question. Cabaret w a s
written before there was Wal-
lace and the election of 1968;
and one wonders about the en-
thusiasm of ' Sally's' American
boy-friend who replies, "All we
can do is go home!"
Perhaps it is pointless to sug-
gest such issues; after all, life
is a cabaret, and what h a s
politics to do with us - with
the theatre ,with criticism, with
music-? One would prefer not
to have been reminded of the
question.
In an obtuse way the pro-
duction of Cabaret which is now
trying to fill the barn-like reach-
es of Hill Auditorium with its
brittle laughter and frantic
gaiety is effective and moving;
the musical itself has a cer-
tain undeniable potency, even in
its darkness and decadence.
Even in spite of a lackluster
cast glazed with tiredness.
But it is the, production it-
self that is somehow poignant;
it is a question which is the bet-
ter metaphor of a society 'on
the verge of collapse: A Berlin
cabaret in 1930 or a touring
company of a fading musical in
1970? One ought not to be too
quick to place one's bet on
Berlin.
A cabaret .singer named Sally
meets an American writer nam-
ed Cliff and moves in with him;
their landlady decides to marry
one of the other tenants, a Ger-
man Jew named Schultz; con-
sidering the onslaught of the
Nazis she changes her mind. The
American goes home to escape
the .wrath that is about to sweep
Europe. The singer goes back to
the cabaret and sings. Curtain.
So much not only for the plot
but for the general tone of the
production. It is moving, but it is
sad and tawdry, frayed at all
the edges and a little depress-
ing. It oughtn't to be so cold out
when one leaves the theatre,
But there are moments, and
there are a few laughs, and there
are a few performances t h a t
catch the light now and then
like wrinkled tinfoil; Alexandra

By BERT STRATTON
Rasaan Roland Kirk was the
hit of the 1968 and the 1969
Newport Jazz Festival. He has
received standing ovations at
both Fillmore Auditoriums. .
Consider t h e reasons. He is
(according to the d o n beat
readers' poll) jazz's eighth best
tenor saxophonist and fifth best
baritone sax man. He is number
two on soprano sax, clarinet,
and flute, besides being the
world's best player of the man-
zello, stritch, nose flute, whistle,
and gong. He's also blind.
Some kind of a freak, right?
Definitely. There isn't anybody
like him, not even Frank Zap-
pa's band could produce as
many different sounds as Ro-
land can by himself. In fact,
Roland often structures a chord
by playing three reed instru-
ments all at the same time.
It's true, he can play tenor
sax, manzello, and stritch all at
once. He found the later two in-
struments in a hock shop, and
after hearing their t o n e s, he
bought them believing they
were the instruments that he'd
heard in his dreams. A stritch
looks like a four foot 1o n g,
bloated clarinet, and has a
range similar to an alto's low-
er register. A manzello looks a
lot like a shortened, sawed-off
clarinet, and has about the
range of a soprano sax.
Roland's big problem is fit-
ting the three instruments into

his mouth and being able to
hold them there. Also, he has
the obvious deficiency of having
only two hands with which to
finger the instruments. That's
why he sticks to playing single
chords when he does his three
part harmony.
But to dismiss Kirk as a side-
show freak is too easy, because
in a way it involves only look-
ing, and no listening. Though
that's not to say listening to
Kirk requires any sort of great
musical insight. Actually, it's
quite easy. It's only 'a matter
of turning on the record player
and being blown away by Kirk's
protean energy. Concentration
is out, just dig it.
Case in point, buy his latest
record Volunteered Slavery (At-
lantic SD 1534). Put on either
side of the record, and see how
many times you c a n play
through it before you have to
switch on Judy Collins to cool
yourself down. It's a valid meas-
ure of your sexual potency,
It all comes down to this.
Kirk's music is the embodiment
of his extreme horiness. What
else could one expect from a
guy who dreams of playing
three saxophone shaped instru-
ments all at the samne time?
And dig Roland's "philosophy
of life" statement on the rec-
ord jacket: "We are all driven
by an invisible whip. Some run,
some have fun, some are hip,
some tip, some dip, but we all

must answer to the invisible
whip." Other verbal proof of
Kirk's condition: in his rap ov-
er a rhythm section backup in
the theme Volunteered Slavery,
he says, "Women, if you want to
know what it is to be free, you
have to spend the whole day in
bed with me." Then in "Three
for the Festival," he strings out
a whole line of obscenities,
spoken through his nose flute.
But as an old English teacher
once said, it's time to move up
to the "second level of mean-r
ing," the one on which the
teacher or music critic can rev-
el in describing what the ma-
terial is really about.
The heaviest song, although
not the most "meaningful," is
"One Ton." Ron Burton, the
outstanding pianist, expands on
a simple blues progression ak

Kirk enters playing tenor and
stritch simultaneously. K i r k
then switches to flute like a
spastic - blowing frantically
on his flute, and at the same
time gasping for air through his
nose flute. Kirk then goes to
tenor, and he, Jimmy Hopps
_the drummer) and Burton take
the sa o n g to its "hell bent"
thrashing conclusion.
In the field of social commen-
tary, Kirk does a seven minute
improvisation on Burt Bacra-
rach's "I Say a Little Prayer."
a reference to Martin Luther
King, and touches on both
Kennedys and King, in "Three
For the Festival," a s o n g in
which h i s tenor quotes from
"We Shall Overcome."
However n o t being content
with the merely political, Ro-
land makes an attempt at spir-

itual communication through
his music. Listen to "Spirits Ups
Above" or "Search for the Rea-
son Why" a t u n e in which
Kirk's Spirit Choir sings "Ev-
eryone has a dream, everything
has a scheme, let's all search
for the reason why." Kirk is so
caught up in this, that he re-
cently requested his band be'
billed as the Vibration Society.
The proof of h i s technical
virtuosity is the medley of songs
he does in tribute to John Col-
trane. He lays down a mellow
tenor solo in the "Lush Life"
segment, a menzello solo in
"Afro-Blue," and another tenor
improvisation in Coltrane's
third song. "Bessie's Blues," As
Roland says on the record, Col-
trane left the songs for us to
learn. Kirk has obviously learn-
ed themn

C.)-

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i>

'9'-

Jay Fox and Tandy Cronyn in 'Cabaret'

Damien providing the landlady
with a patina of dignity; Sally
Chamnplin as Fraulein Kost slut-
ting about with sailors in a
tragicomic sort of way; Jay Fox
personifying cynicism and des-
peration behind the mask of, the
Master of Ceremonies.
. Tandy Cronyn as Sally and
Franklin Kiser as Cliff, un-
fortunately, do not have what It
takes to fill Hill Auditorium
past the protruding .edge of the
first balcony ",(which is not all
their fault: the balcony is a
long way back). But they come
across as summer stock players
do on an evening when it threat-
ens to rain - as if they wished
to hell they were somewhere else
where earning a living didn't
constantly expose you to fickle
audiences and churlish critics.
..Cabaret on the road: it's hardly
worth writing home about, es-
pecially to Jessica and Hume.

So, it is a bit of a downer,
but it's a show, and it's better
than a speech by Wallace, and
probably better than whatever is
on TV on weekdays nights these
Bays, and -
Why is it that ;the sight of a
lady drummer depresses me so?
Even more than a lady sax-
dphone player? Almost as much
is lady wrestling or a roller der-
yy? One can agree in a morbid
sort of way with Cliff's com-
ment on Berlin: "I like this city
-everthing is so tacky and ter-
rible."
Well, tacky, anyway.
Ii

F R I DAY,
FEBRUARY 6
9 P.MI. on _
1440
T H ubbard
{lost stop
of North
Campus bus)

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