Kenny Dorham may be likened to a suporting actor, who, having gained experience performing with the best, inevitably graduates to a starring role. In these first recordings with his own group, Kenny displays a depth of feeling, a skill on his instrument and a brilliance of tone that mark him as one of the brightest stars to appear in the jazz constellation in some time.
Born on a ranch near Fairfield, Texas, Kenny started playing trumpet in 1939 while at Anderson High School in Austin, Texas. His music background is rich, for he was brought up on the blues which he heard his mother and father play on piano and guitar. He learned to play a little piano by himself but became more interested in pugilistics and joined the high school boxing team. To forestall the bruises and bumps which Kenny invariably carried home from his matches, his mother bought him a trumpet and Kenny again turned to music--but not for long. He still had other ambitions and attended Weily College for two years where he majored in Chemistry. He did play in the college dance band, however (which also included Wild Bill Davis who played guitar and piano at that time), and began writing his own tunes and doing some arranging. Then World War II interrupted his studies and 1943 found Kenny on the Army Boxing Team.
After his discharge, Kenny traveled to the West Coast, which was still seething with war-time activity, and got a job working days at the shipyards and nights at various clubs around San Francisco. He returned to Texas for a while, working in Houston with Russel Jacquet's group, and then, finally deciding to pursue a career as a musician, came to New York in 1945 where he has since remained.
In the past nine years, Kenny has played with innumerable all-star groups in all of New York's jazz spots, as well as with the bands of Lionel Hampton, Dizzy Gillespie, and Billy Eckstine. He began working with Bird on Christmas Eve of 1948 at the Royal Roost and flew to Paris with the group to play the Annual Jazz Festival in 1949. Kenny has also worked with Mary Lou Williams, Thelonious Monk, Bud Powell and Sonny Stitt and has made numerous recordings as a sideman with these various groups.
These sides give the listener a good cross-section of Kenny's many and various talents: his composition "An Oscar For Oscar" (Goodstein, that is) and his original introduction and coda on "Ruby, My Dear;" his arrangements of the six tunes recorded; his playing throughout, ranging from the up-tempo "Oscar" to the lento ballads.
Jimmy Heath, or "Little Bird" as he is better known, complements Kenny's mood and interpretation on the written baritone lines of "Ruby," "Be My Love," and "I Love You," but more especially on tenor which he blows fresh and free with a real "gutty"sound on "Oscar" and heeds Kenny's admonition to "wail" on "Osmosis." Walter Bishop on piano--another up-coming young musician to keep your eye on and ears attuned to--percussion expert Kenny Clarke, and able-bassist Percy Heath form the very solid and supporting rhythm section.
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