The Jazz Fix: Rahsaan Roland Kirk and John Cage – ‘Sound??’

A couple of weeks ago we featured an intimate portrait of Sonny Rollins in Dick Fontaine’s brilliant 1968 snapshot into the saxophonist’s hermetic ways. A year before that film was shot, Fontaine filmed Sound??, which really should be prescribed reading for any jazz fan, or music student, for that matter. Simply put, it’s fecking wonderful. Between footage of Roland Kirk in concert and improvising at the zoo, John Cage breaks the fourth wall to ask the audience rhetorical questions from various unexpected locations. The film notes state that Sound??‘s┬átitle indicates the objective of the work; “merely to take advantage of the ideas of an innovative jazzman (Kirk) in order to permit an avant-garde contemporary (Cage) to speculate with silence and with sound as two facets of the same reality”.

Sound?? is the second film in a two-part series, the first part being Ornette Coleman Trio, which presents Coleman’s famous trio during their visit to Paris in 1966 in order to record the soundtrack of a nutty-looking Belgium film called “Who’s Crazy?”. Together they’re two of the most interesting films ever made on modern experimental jazz.