But as you know, there is a huge difference between playing a nose flute and blowing a flute with the nose. So far, I haven't found any picture of Roland Kirk with a Humanatone, and more, I saw several pictures of Kirk playing a recorder applied on of his nostrils, while regularly blowing a transverse flute. Something quite impressive, but not related to the little urban instrument which is the topic of this blog.
So, reading things like « Beyond being a fine (traditional) flute player, Rahsaan was the undisputed king of the nose flute » was annoying me a little.
But sometimes, in the forums or in the magazines, a "nose whistle" was mentioned. And you cannot mix a flute up with a whistle. I found this article of the Muhlenberg Weekly (Sept. 27, 1962), saying "nose flute (appears from his coat pocket)". Nobody can hide a recorder in a coat pocket, but a Humanatone, yes. However, the headline of the article was mentioning a "small African nose flute". So, what to think?
I spent hours listening to Roland Kirk recordings, trying to discern a nose flute between other flutes, saxes, drums, ... Then I received the light!! an urban nose flute needs the nose and the mouth to be played, and nobody could play a Humanatone while playing another wind instrument. So, if there was urban nose flute in Kirk's recordings, it should be easily audible, and monotonal.
Indeed, I finally found 3 tunes with nose flute, and there are certainly many more in Kirk's works. And as expected, these occurences are very short (because Roland Kirk had to leave all his other instruments to play some notes, no fun...). They are used for a kind of rythmic signal, but they are bi-tonal, as if Kirk played 2 nose flutes at the same time: in this case, they must have been those small African nose flutes (pipe shaped and fingered) mentioned in the Muhlenberg Weekly, and not some urban and buccal pitched instrument. And why "nose" flute? Just because the audience laughs at those moments (and also because it's specified in the captions)
Here are the excerpts (sorry to cut these exceptional performances, but I had to, not to infringe copyrights):
On the Corner of King and Scott Street (Kirk in Copenhagen) - 1963(nose flute at 0'22)
The Monkey Thing (Kirk in Copenhagen) - 1963(nose flute at 0'13)
One Ton (Volunteered Slavery) - 1968(nose flute at 0'09)
Roland Kirk was one of the greatest jazz flautist, no doubt about that. Probably the most innovative. But did he play the urban nose flute? I really seeked for the answer to this question, and still found no evidence. If someone reading this blog had a picture or a recording proving Rahsaan Roland Kirk played a Humanatone or so, we would be glad to induct him to the Nose Flute Hall of Fame, but without, we can't.