"What am I going to dream about?" asks Rahsaan Roland Kirk in the opening seconds of his often misunderstood album, The Case of the 3 Sided Dream in Audio Color
(1975). This album is a glimpse into Rahsaan's "three-sided dramatization of music." But what is this "three-sided dramatization" that Rahsaan refers to in his liner notes?
If you examine the prominent themes on this album, three patterns emerge: Conversations; Dreams; and Songs. Jazz, unfortunately, is always critically measured in terms of musical expertise. This is a legitimate measuring device, but in no way does this measuring device sufficiently provide a detailed depiction of the genre. Ultimately, the song is what we, as listeners, want to hear. Behind the song, however, lies a rich history of the human experience. The roots of jazz really go back to the nuance and subtlety of the human voice: the art of song, storytelling, and human conversation. Dreams, which represent the nonlinear aspects of human thought, are also the poetic prelude to the nonlinearity of improvisation. The art of improvisation is key to understanding the true nature of jazz.
This album, despite never being a critical success, is a history lesson packaged as a jazz album. Its lack of critical success was not a failure of Rahsaan's, but of the critics themselves. Sometimes, as listeners of music, we only want to hear the songs and admire the fruit. On this album, Rahsaan gives us the whole tree, roots and all.