This year marks only the third time since 1984 that my phone didn’t ring on August 5 to hear a certain unmistakeable voice rasp out “Happy Birthday, Michie!” And then Jim would remind me that he had never missed a year, remind me what a horrible curse it was that he had this affinity for Leos (his ex-wives were both August-born), recount how many years we had known each other and state emphatically that I was stuck with him, no matter what. In the 25 years that I was lucky enough to call Jim my friend, he NEVER missed a birthday of mine … even when I was officially not speaking to him (not that he ever gave a damn!) And often, he would call August 4th at midnight, cackling maniacally to ensure that he was the first to wish it to me. So, since he was on my mind a bit more than usual the past few days, it got me to thinking about some of the gifts he gave me over the years, and then I remembered one of my favorites: a gold pendant designed by Healdsburg Jazz Festival promoter and talented artist, Jessica Felix, that has the words “Bright Moments” stamped on it. When he gave it to me, on HIS birthday – Feb. 3, 1986 – he had to explain that Bright Moments was the name of a famous live double album from multi-reedist jazz great, Rahsaan Roland Kirk (who also happened to be blind) recorded in SF in 1973 and issued in 1974. In fact, Jim took the amazing multiple exposure color image that graced the cover of the album, and I remember Jim was extremely proud of that image. I think he considered it one of the greatest multiple exposures he was able to pull off (all of it in camera, of course) because he felt the image did a great job of capturing Roland Kirk’s vigor and his renowned ability to play more than one sax, flute, nose flute, etc. at a time. Here’s a bit on Roland Kirk’s “Bright Moments” from his wiki page: “Bright Moments is a live album by jazz multi-instrumentalist Rahsaan Roland Kirk featuring performances by Kirk with Ron Burton, Todd Barkan, Henry Mattathias Pearson, Robert Shy and Joe Habad Texidor recorded at Keystone Korner, San Francisco in June 1973. “The Allmusic review by Steve Huey states, ‘Rahsaan Roland Kirk’s live club gigs were usually engaging, freewheeling affairs, full of good humor and a fantastically wide range of music. The double album Bright Moments (reissued as a double CD) is a near-definitive document of the Kirk live experience, and his greatest album of the ‘70s. The extroverted Kirk was in his element in front of an audience, always chatting, explaining his concepts, and recounting bits of jazz history. Even if some of his long, jive-talking intros can sound a little dated today, it’s clear in the outcome of the music that Kirk fed voraciously off the energy of the room. Bright Moments empties all the major items out of Kirk’s bag of tricks, providing a neat microcosm of his talents and displaying a consummate and knowledgeable showman. In short, it’s nothing less than a tour de force.”
In rooting around on the “interwebs,” I came across this wonderful quote from the Bright Moments double album that is apparently what Roland Kirk (who was known for his entertaining asides from onstage) said by way of introduction to the song that night:
“You know it’s good to be in a place that feels like you’re in your house, you know. Now, it’s a beautiful thing, we’re glad you people are assembled here with us on this Saturday night ... You know what I mean? You don’t feel like Saturday night people. Some Saturday night people, that’s the only night they get out and they act like it.
Now we would like to think of some very beautiful Bright Moments. You know what I mean?
Bright Moments is like eating your last pork chop in London, England, because you ain’t gonna get no more . . . cooked from home.
Bright Moments is like being with your favorite love and you’re sharing the same ice cream dish. And you get mad when she gets the last drop. And you have to take her in your arms and get it the other way.
Bright Moments. That’s too heavy for most of you all because you all don’t know nothing about that kind of love. The love you all have been taught about is the love in those magazines. And I am fortunate that I didn’t have to look at magazines.
Bright Moments is like seeing something that you ain’t ever seen in your life and you don’t have to see it but you know how it looks.
Bright Moments is like hearing some music that ain’t nobody else heard, and if they heard it they wouldn’t even recognize that they heard it because they been hearing it all their life but they nutted on it so, when you hear it and you start popping your feet and jumping up and down they get mad because you’re enjoying yourself but those are bright moments that they can’t share with you because they don’t even know how to go about listening to what you’re listening to and when you try to tell them about it they don’t know a damn thing about what you’re talking about!
Is there any other Bright Moments before we proceed on?
Bright Moments is like having brothers and sisters and sisterettes and brotherettes like you all here listening to us.”
Roland Kirk was known for his virtuosity, passionate views, versatility, and affinity for outcasts and other odd ducks … not unlike a certain photographer we all know and miss. And, like Jim always said, once you were in with him, you were family. And that’s as bright as it gets.