THE LATE Rahsaan Roland Kirk was, to borrow an expression from Duke Ellington, "beyond category." Blind from birth, Kirk could hear melodies in the roar of airplane engines and recognize the rhythms of friends' footsteps in a crowded club.
A saxophonist who blended the traditional and the avant-garde, he could play three horns at once and was famous for his self-duets on flute and nose flute. His stamina was legendary; he once blew nonstop for more than two hours at a London club and was annoyed when his feat did not make it into the Guinness Book of Records.
Yet none of this was gimmmickry: Kirk's devotion to music was total and his knowledge of it comprehensive. His name turned up in polls again and again from the early 1960s until his death at age 41 in 1977, and before he formed his own group, the Vibration Society, he had worked with Charles Mingus and other prominent jazz musicians.
Kirk's widow, Dorthaan, music coordinator of all-jazz WBGO-FM in Newark, N.J., and pianist Hilton Ruiz, who worked with Kirk, will bring a newly formed Vibration Society to d.c. space Saturday night for a program of Kirk's works, including his compositions "Bright Moments" and "The Inflated Tear." In addition, a film of Kirk in performance will be shown.
Dorthaan Kirk recalled her husband's ability to dance an audience out of a club or concert hall onto the street Pied Piper-fashion: "I even have photos of a winter performance in Montreal where he played in the club and then through the audience and then outside--photos of people lined up outside where he was playing. He was notorious for doing that at the Village Vanguard in New York and Keystone Corner in San Francisco, too."