Jazz Birthday: Kenny Dorham (1924)

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One of the worst things the totalitarians do to people is get inside their heads. Creativity helps annul that. It’s at least close to thinking or overlaps thinking for oneself. Jazz is spontaneously created and invented on the spot, within musical parameters.

In high school,Kenny Dorham had begun to teach himself piano and trumpet. By the age of 19 he was playing in a big band. As he moved around he began composing and arranging, key requirements for big band music. Dorham became an early bebop trumpeter who by 1948 was playing in Charlie Parker’s quintet, after replacing Miles Davis who recommended him. He then became very active in hard bop and fronted his own group. His tone is distinctive, somewhat subdued and a bit fuzzy, raw or velvety, more brillant in the upper register, with light irregular vibrato, and with an attack that is a bit dispersed rather than sharp. His playing is highly melodic, with inventive improvisations, not immediately recognizable as derivative or as well-practised licks, and not imitative. There are some brief youtube videos of him playing excerpts live, but I’ve chosen a complete tune in AABA style so that you can hear the melody and then his choruses. This 1959 recording (Lotus Blossom) has a superior quartet (Paul Chambers on bass, Art Taylor on drums, and Tommy Flanagan on piano).

6:28 am on August 30, 2012