"I want to do a book on some of the musicians that I feel were bypassed . . . Like Kenny Dorham. Most people know Kenny, but Kenny during his whole lifetime never got the accolades and never got the roses that he should have received for all that he gave us."
Kenny Dorham was a musician's musician. Universally admired and respected by his peers and fellow trumpeters, KD worked with every major figure of the modern jazz movement--Billy Eckstine, Dizzy Gillespie, Art Blakey, Bud Powell, Charlie Parker, Thelonious Monk and Max Roach.
Yet for all his popularity with fellow musicians, who loved his unique tone and melodic ideas, Dorham was constantly overshadowed by more obviously brilliant and original voices during his lifetime. He had the misfortune to play beneath the shadows cast by Gillespie, Fats Navarro, Clifford Brown and Miles Davis. Only in the 18 years since his death has a fuller and wider appreciation of KD's talent developed. There is now a "school" of Dorham trumpet playing.
Kenny was a singularly gifted instrumentalist and improvisor who distinguished himself in Bebop but really came into his own during the Hard Bop period when his mature playing graced the Jazz Messengers and the Max Roach Quintet, both quintessential groups of the genre.
Kenny was also an excellent jazz composer and a highly proficient arranger. He used to "ghost" many of the charts which were published under the name of Walter "Gil" Fuller. Dorham was a sensitive ballad singer to boot.
From the 1950's onwards, Dorham occasionally led groups of his own--the first was called The Jazz Prophets--and gave early and crucial exposure to such younger men as Bobby Timmons, Herbie Hancock, Joe Henderson, Charles Davis, Kenny Burrell, Butch Warren and Tony Williams.
It is difficult to imagine that this singular talent, who proved to be a discerning critic as his Down Beat reviews revealed, was forced to take jobs in munitions and medical plants and a sugar refinery to sustain his family because the rewards of playing jazz were so poor.
Kenny's playing got better and better from 1954 onwards. In the 1960's he recorded with Barry Harris, Cedar Walton, Jackie McLean, Joe Henderson, Eric Dolphy, besides making an impressive series of LP's under his own name for Blue Note. Dorham was a consultant for the Harlem Youth Act anti-poverty program in New York, and a member of the board of the New York Neophonic Orchestra. In the 1970's Dorham continued to play gigs and appear at festivals. KD, who possessed one of the most uniquely beautiful trumpet sounds in jazz, died on December 5, 1972 of a kidney ailment from which he had been suffering for some time.
--MARK GARDNER, from the liner notes,
Osmosis, Black Lion
A selected discography of Kenny Dorham albums.
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