Only his third session as a leader, 1961's WE FREE KINGS finds multi-instrumentalist Roland Kirk (he added the Rahsaan in 1969) transplanted to New York from his native Midwest and signed to Mercury Records, where he'd remain for the next seven years. With this classic album, Kirk shook off detractors who dismissed him as a novelty (for his revival of the vaudeville trick of playing up to three reeds at once) and established himself as a paragon of modern jazz.
Beginning with a typically idiosyncratic reworking of Coltrane's "Blues for Alice," Kirk only occasionally steps into the free jazz style implied by the album's title, notably on the first recorded version of his legendary multi-horn showcase "Three for the Festival." Recorded in two different no-nonsense trio settings, WE FREE KINGS showcases Kirk's astonishingly varied brilliance in a suitably stripped-down context. Different CD editions of this album contain various outtakes and alternate takes.