Even Rahsaan Roland Kirk fans who live in Cincinnati are often unaware of his connection he had with this city. During a recent talk at MotrPub, Jim Tarbell mentioned that he used to see a blues band downtown that had in its horn section Roland Kirk. Local jazz artists Ron Enyard and Charlie Wilson have both performed with him. And for a short period the jazz wunderkind lived in Cincinnati.
It’s hard sometimes to envision iconic figures doing everyday things on your stomping grounds, especially ones who even flat-out look iconic; here I remember someone telling me that one day she saw Moondog in full regalia walking across the campus of the University of Cincinnati. (Going to visit some of his fraternity brothers? I guess not, but hey, what do I know…) One day Bob Nave was working at a record store called Mayor’s in downtown Dayton when a gentleman walked in who Bob didn’t recognize. The blind black man bought some records and invited Bob to a workshop that was taking place in Dayton later that day.
“This bar was a plain Jane bar,” Bob said. “They had a little bandstand. The place was packed with kids and high school music teachers.”
What Bob and the rest of the crowd saw amazed them. It’s one thing to be a multi-instrumentalist, but it’s another thing to be a multi-instrumentalist all at once—and once in a blue moon (or maybe just once ever) someone can take it to another level.
“When I went I couldn’t believe what I was hearing and seeing,“ Bob explained over the phone the other day. “It just blew me away. The way he could join the sax, manzello, stritch….The first thing he did was play the saxophone section to Mood Indigo.” (Mood Indigo is a haunting Duke Ellington composition; here’s a rendition by Joe Jackson
Attending that workshop engendered in Bob Nave a fascination with the music of Rahsaan Roland Kirk that continues to this day, and Nave is going to present a one-hour tribute to the jazz legend on Sunday, July 1 at 10 on WMKV 89.3. (The program will repeat Monday June 2 at 9:00 pm.) WMKV is a Cincinnati station, but if you have any trouble pulling it in, listen to it on their website, wmkv.org. The program will include some story-telling at the beginning, but the focus will primarily be on the music of a jazz artist who in one of Bob Nave’s favorites. (The other is Charles Mingus.)
To give you a taste of Roland Kirk, this is him playing the jazz standard “Misty”
And by the way– if the name Bob Nave sounds familiar, it’s because he’s been part of the Cincinnati music scene since the 1960s. Only recently did I meet him, but I kind of felt like I knew him already because his voice was so familiar. I used to hear him all the time on the late, great WNOP, and he has a perfect DJ voice. His resume includes other gigs as a radio announcer and jazz host—and as a musician. In the 1960s he played with the Lemon Pipers, and many bands later he finds himself a member of the Blues Merchants, who play a lot around Cincinnati. Check out their website at thebluesmerchants.com, and also check out this video of a live performance by the Blues Merchants: