I’d been waiting for the 50th anniversary of the first recording of Rahsaan Roland Kirk’s The Inflated Tear (October 19, 1967) for a few months. Fortunately, a phone conversation with Rahsaan’s son Rory on October 17 reminded me about it just in time, and our jazzleadsheets.com team went into action. In addition to speaking with producer and long-time Kirk associate Todd Barkan about his thoughts on Rahsaan and on this composition, I wanted to see if I could clarify whether this concert footage was actually the very first public performance of The Inflated Tear. I knew pianist Rahn Burton thought that it was the first performance. But there was still some doubt, so the anniversary day provided me with a great reason to call Rahsaan’s bassist Steve Novosel to get his recollection. I hadn’t seen or talked to Steve in quite a few years, so I was happy to make the call. I got lucky and immediately got him on the phone, giving me a golden opportunity to ask one of my absolute favorite questions: “Steve, I want you think very carefully: tell me what you were doing exactly 50 years ago today.” Of course, dead silence on the other end of the phone. After Steve recovered enough to say, “I have absolutely no idea,” I was able to enlighten him. “That was 50 years ago today?” It all flashed back, and we had a nice conversation about that gig. I asked him if that was the “very first” performance. He said he was sure they played it first on their previous concert, which was in Warsaw, Poland. It was the usual way with Rahsaan. Out of the blue, he just started playing it. None of the rest of the band had heard it before! Steve said that the Warsaw gig was vivid in his memory because it completely blew the audience away. At the end of The Inflated Tear, they all stood and sang their national anthem. Steve said, “I could never forget that!”
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