“I hope that you can imagine you have journeyed with me, through all the frozen, unreal and unnatural lifestyle things that we had to go through to get to this point so that we could end up in Eulipia.” — Raahsaan Roland Kirk
Today would have been Rahsaan’s 81st birthday, and since he is the patron saint of Melting Pot, our tradition is to pay tribute to him by highlighting one of his records. This particular record is not only one of my favorite Rahsaan records, it’s one of my all-time favorite records. While “Theme For The Eulipions” was not the first Rahsaan song I heard, it’s THE song that secured my undying affection for his music. In all honesty at this point, I cannot remember how I came to hear Rahsaan’s music. I know that it was related to my working at a Blockbuster Music in 1994 or 1995, likely I had to stock some of his music or was alphabetizing the Jazz section and came across one of the CD (only CDs in those days) covers featuring him playing multiple saxophones at the same time. I do know that one of the first things that I bought from Rahsaan was a collection of his music on the Warner Bros. label titled “Simmer, Reduce, Garnish and Serve” (in fact, based on the release date of that collection, April 1995, there is a possibility that it WAS my introduction to Rahsaan’s music). That collection begins with a rapid fire circular breathing monster called “Lunatic Danza,” but “The Theme For The Eulipions” was the second track.
“Eulipions” is a cherished track for many Rahsaan fans. Taken along with “Bright Moments,” the song presents Rahsaan’s very unique worldview, a world based on his dreams and his attempts to make those dreams into a reality. Eulipia is a place that Rahsaan created, a place I’m sure he visited first in a dream. “Eulipions,” the denizens of this fantastical realm, find their way to our world as the poets, musicians and artists. Hearing this track the first time, I’m sure I was taken aback after first hearing “Lunatic Danza’s” breakneck pace, into a sublime, almost Esquivelian arrangement with spoken word and vocals written by Betty Neals.
It took me some time back in those pre-internet/pre-Ebay/pre-Discogs days to track down the full record. By that time I was deep in my love for Rahsaan and probably had 25 of his records. I had some ability to compare and contrast the music here with other albums. “5,000lb Man” doesn’t feature Rahsaan playing multiple saxophones and it doesn’t contain his most fiery solos, but there’s a depth of feeling on the album that is tough to match on any other record. This album was the last album Rahsaan recorded before his stroke, which required him to essentially re-learn how to play with the use of only one arm (though re-learn he did, the results of which make up his last album, The Boogie-Woogie String Along For Real). It doesn’t seem possible that Rahsaan knew his stroke was coming, but the choice of music for his Warner Bros. debut provides more than a cross-section of the many tastes Rahsaan displayed, but it also includes two tributes to two of his biggest influences, John Coltrane and Lester Young. Instead of “just” performing “Giant Steps” and “Goodbye Pork Pie Hat” (which you could also consider a tribute to Mingus, who originally composed it), Rahsaan wrote lyrics for “Pork Pie” and had lyrics from Betty Neals written for “Steps.” The lyrics transform the songs, allowing Rahsaan and the Vibration society to not only impart their respect for tradition, but also a chance to create something new and unique.
But it is “The Theme For The Eulipions” that I come back to again and again on this album. Recently, the film is used towards the end of the excellent Rahsaan documentary, “The Case Of The 3-Sided Dream,” and it’s inclusion in that film, at the most emotional moment of the entire film has caused me to weep every single time I hear it. Prior to that it certainly made my heart soar, but matching it with Rahsaan’s story in the way that film-maker Adam Kahan achieved in the film has created an indelible impression on me. It was already my favorite song from Rahsaan, but as it closes the film, it now strikes me as the perfect love letter, from Rahsaan and his fellow Eulipions, to those of us who long to be with them always…and through this music, we are able to return again and again for all the beautiful Bright Moments he brought us during his time here.