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Kenny Dorham: Quiet Kenny

Kenny Droham 1959

Recorded November 13, 1959
Kenny Dorham - Trumpet
Tommy Flanagan - Piano
Paul Chambers - Bass
Arthur Taylor - Drums

Original Liner Notes:
By Ira Gitler March 1970
Ira is author of Jazz Masters of the 40's published by Macmillan.

When this recording session was first issued in its incomplete form (I say incomplete because it contained only seven tracks) it was entitled Quiet Kenny because of the relaxed feeling of the album and the fact that Kenny Dorham's playing, no matter what the tempo, was never bombastic. Dorham's work have never been marked by pretense or excess. Within a style that uses multi-noted passages he has always employed these long-lined phrases in a logical, integral manner. Lacking the comedic proclivities of Dizzy Gillespie, the charismatic demeanor of Miles Davis or the virtuosic bravura of Clifford Brown, Kenny Dorham is nevertheless a consummate artist. The average listener is not blessed with the perception necessary to fully appreciate the subtlety of his delicately-spun, yet durably-constructed, musical webs.

This set was recorded over 10 years ago. Dorham has further matured as both craftsman and artist since that time but these 1959 performances hold up beautifully. His little but muscular, wing-footed attack was very much together back then. That is not so extraordinary when you consider he was playing in Russell Jacquet's band in 1943 and later served important apprenticeships with Dizzy Gillespie's first big band of 1945, Billy Eckstine's great mid-Forties crew and Lionel Hampton. It was during Kenny's tenure with the Charlie Parker quintet (1948-50), however, that he really began to come on, and he continued to hone his talent during the Fifties with Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers, Max Roach's quintet, and The Jazz Prophets, a group under his own leadership. In the summers of Jazz in Lenox, Massachusetts and inteh latter year, he wrote the score and appeared in a French film, Witness in the City. So Kenny Dorham/1959 presents K. D. at the end of a decade of highly creative endeavor as player, composer and teacher. It was a time of pausing to take a breath and looking back for a momment before forging ahead once again. At the time Dorham indicated that he had picked several of the songs "for their sentimental value." They do have definite associations for him and he delved into them with a healthy nostalgia, defining them in his own way while he pays tributes.

There are also three Dorham originals in this set and one of them opens the proceedings. Lotus Blossom (it has no connection with the Sam Coslow tune of the same name and had also been recorded by Sonny Rollins, and by Freddie Hubbard, under its other title, Asiatic Raes) is given an Eastern introduction by the cymbals of Paul Chambers before Dorham launches into a comfortably swinging exposition of its haunting, minor-key theme. After swift, sure-footed solo Kenny is followed by the impeccable Tommy Flanagan, a pianist who is the epitome of taste, time and thought. Taylor's agile explosions are freamed by a phrase from the theme and lead back into the final statement of that motile, yet stately, line.

Saxophone great Coleman Hawkins is the object of Dorham's affections in My Ideal. Kenny had heard Hawk's recording during the same period he became aware of the more celebrated Body and Soul and recalled liking it equally well. Here he creates a lovely mood with a sensitive delivery and a tonal effect that is singularly beautiful and completely personal. Flanagan's complementary solo helps sustain the feeling.

Dorham's Blue Friday - the longest track in the set at nine mintues - is a loping, minor-key blues which Kenny bites into more deeply as he builds his choruses. Smears and innuendos are used to advantage and here they are not libelous. Flanagan, with Taylor rapping and tapping behind him at the outset, states the blues calmy and reflectively, and then the late Paul Chambers plucks four, articulate, blues-filled choruses. K. D. returns with a hint of Shadrack and then take it out.

He first remembers playing Alone Together with Charlie Parker and therefore it has special significance. This performace is all Dorham - two choruses played with an affecting threnodic quality. A lament for the living.

Chamber's big, walking notes set the pace for a more sanquine start on Side B. Blue Spring (it was called Blue Spring Shuffle in its first incarnation) is marching blues into which Dorham digs with stong rhythmic support. Flanagan's blues are sppropriately bluesy but never obvious. There is a catchy second theme played in unison by Dorham and Chambers before Paul makes his steel strings ring in solo. Kenny then echoes the second theme, returns to the opening line and out.

Dorham, as many of us, connects I Had the Craziest Dream with Harry James version. Helen Forrest isn't here to sing but Kenny more than makes up for it with his vocally-inflected horn and superb sense of timing. He takes this dream sequence as far away from a nightmare as on could imagine while Flanagan's fingers sprinkle stardust and Taylor's brushes soothe all the waking dreamers.

Old Folks is a song that lines up with Dorham's days in the Max Roach quintet. "It's a beautiful tune in which the words fit the feeling of the music exactly," he says. "Folks used to come backstage and ask me to play it. And I'd tell them that I had played it in the set before. But they'd insist and the next time I got and opportunity to play a ballad, I'd play it again. I dug playing it as much as they dug hearing it."

Ditto for this version with solo assists from flowing Flanagan and the prettily-picking Chambers.

The closer, never issued before, is Mack the Knife - or Moritat - from The Three-Penny Opera. Of course it was Louis Armstrong who popularized the song in the 1950's, and this version, done in Dorham style, contains a tip of the camp to Satchmo in its ending.

In the 1960's Dorham busied himself in many musical direction. (He was also a consultant for the HARYOU-ACT anti-poverty program in New York City.) In the winter of 1963-64 he toured Scandinavia; in the spring of 1966 he appeared at the Longhorn Jazz Festival in Austin, Texas, where he had gone to high school and college; in 1969 he appeared at the Newport Jazz Festival. Kenny also attended the Manhattan School of Music and presently is studying toward a degree in music education at New York University with his eventual goal a Masters. During the last half of the decade he contributed record reviews and articles to down beat. A portion of his autobiography-in-progress was published in the magazine's yearbook: Music '70. Some of his recent playing can be heard on Barry Harris' Bull's Eye! (Prestige 7600) and Cedar Walton's Cedar! (Prestige 7519).

Kenny Dorham has opened up the scope of his activites. This musical document lets you know that he has been taking care of serious business for a long time.

Kenny Droham 1959 Back

Side A:
Lotus Blossom
My Deal
Blue Friday
Alone Together

Side B:
Blue Spring
I Had The Craziest Dream
Old Folks
Mack The Knife


Hank said...

FWIW, the JVC XRCD version of 'Quiet Kenny' does have all of these tracks, and although it is digital, comes close to my version of this LP...well worth the investment if you can't find the vinyl.

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