Last year at this time I was surprised that I hadn’t posted up a record from Rahsaan Roland Kirk, given that he’s one of my all-time favorite musicians and all around human beings. Since today is Rahsaan’s birthday, I thought I post up another of his records (which I believe makes him the first artist that I’ve repeated in this section to date). Blacknuss is very much connected to Rahsaan’s activist work with the Jazz & People’s Movement, a group he formed to put pressure on networks to broadcast more “Black Classical Music” as he called jazz. The album primarily features a number of covers of contemporary soul songs, the best of which are “Ain’t No Sunshine” and “Make It With You,” but the way Rahsaan covers these songs is clearly less focused on riding the coat-tails of popular melodies and instead on highlighting both the accomplishments of the original artists and his own style.
The song “Blacknuss” stands by itself, but also helps to put the whole album into focus. Highlighting just the black keys doesn’t mean that the white keys aren’t important on the piano, but when they receive most of the attention, it’s good sometimes to throw a little shine the other way. The focus on those “minor” keys gives the song a certain mood, as does the singing of each letter of the title by Rahsaan and Cissy Houston (makes you wonder if a little 8 year old Whitney was in the studio at the time, I think it is very likely that Rahsaan’s activism influenced her own). Incredible sounds from an incredible musician who brought so many beautiful bright moments to the world.