2 Horns/ 2 Rhythm:
KENNY DORHAM Quartet
Kenny Dorham (tp, also on piano on Soon) Ernie Henry (as) Eddie Mathias (b) or Wilbur Ware (b; on Side 1, #4 and side 2, #4 only) G. T. Hogan (drs) New York; November 13 and December 2, 1957
1. Lotus Blossom (5:17) (Kenny Dorham)
2. 'Sposin' (6:08) (Razaf – Denniker)
3. Soon (2:53) (George & Ira Gershwin)
4. Is It True What They Say About Dixie? (4:36) (Caesar – Lerner- Marks)
1. The End of a Love Affair (4:19) (Edward Redding)
2. I'll Be Seeing You (4:16) (Kahal – Fain)
3. Noose Bloos (6:21) (Kenny Dorham)
4. Jazz Classic (3:08) (Kenny Dorham)
In a recent conversation about KENNY DORHAM, Max Roach - with whose group Kenny has been featured for the past years - stopped briefly to find just the right word to describe the quality of Dorham's searching, imaginative solo work. Then he hit on it. "Abstract," he said, "Kenny can get some things going that are really abstract!"
The word fits well as a compliment to the fresh and still-expanding jazz ideas of this sensitive, important horn man. We knew it fit because exactly the same word had come up while the tapes of this LP were being listened to in the Riverside offices in the course of planning the album cover. This one clearly called for an unusual and imaginative photo. That's something far easier to ask for than to get, but the photographer came up with the requested rarity: a distinctive picture with a truly abstract feeling, one that covers much of the essence of this exciting and unusual record. (If you're curious, the photo is of a 25-pound block of ice - or, more precisely, through the ice, taken at the moment that the flame of a bunsen burner on the far side burned through it, with the patterns and color being created by the flame.)
The pianoless quartet lineup used here is one that Dorham has been much attracted to of late: when the Roach group switched to such a format late in 1957, it was partly Kenny's idea. The concept is one that has been gaining some momentum lately - not only in pianoless units, but also in the tendency towards 'strolling' solo choruses, backed only by bass and drums, in bands with conventional instrumentation. It's not that anyone has anything against the piano, but rather that (as Gerry Mulligan and others pointed up a few years ago) the omission of piano chordings offers certain kinds of musical freedom that are otherwise difficult to get at. It is a freedom that Dorham and Ernie Henry utilized to advantage here, both in brilliant solo work and in achieving some very different ensemble sounds.
Actually, the absence of piano could pose some problems in ensemble, but note when the horns are as close-knit as the two. Dorham and Henry had long been close friends, were veterans of much 'woodshedding' in the basement of the Henry home, and had a rare mutual grasp of each other's musical thought and directions. This album, according to their plans, was to be the beginning of a good deal of joint of effort. In reality, however, turned out to be Ernie's last recording session. After battling periodic ill-health, this highly talented altoist died suddenly, at the age of 31, just four weeks after completion of this LP. Specifically, Henry's notable solo on Jazz-Standard was the last he was to record.
On that tune and on the other seven selections here, he contributes significantly to the success of his friend's album. Kenny, thought, must be considered the major force here. To quote Roach again (this time from a Down Beat interview article): "Miles Davis says that the only people he can hear on the horn today are Dizzy and Kenny. And I know what he means. When he wants to hear an inspired horn he listens to them…” Praise from Miles and being linked with Dizzy is not at all out of line. For Dorham, a Young veteran (in his early thirties, but with a decade and a half of major-league experience behind him), seems ready now for recognition as an important creative figure in jazz. Many listeners, musicians and critics have known for a long time that his is one of the most formidable trumpet men around. But recent indications are that a deepening maturity is adding still more to what he has to offer.
And this album should also make it clear that Dorham has much to say as a jazz composer and arranger. It would probably have been easy enough to handle a small-group LP like this as just a loose, 'blowing' affair. But Dorham, having some definite points to make, has designed both the originals and the special treatments of standards here to utilize to the fullest the sounds and the feeling of this kind of instrumentation. I'll Be Seeing You and the blues (Noose Bloos) are reserved for free blowing. But the others are something else. There's the dirge-like version of Gershwin's Soon, which makes effective use of just a few touches of piano; there is Kenny's own Jazz-Classic, which suggests rather than imitates a sense of classical counterpoint; and his Lotus Blossom, drawing exotic-sounding effects from the trumpet-alto blend. There is a surging race through a revitalized old warhorse ('Sposin'), and a swinging-staccato approach to Love Affair and Dixie.
In addition to the already-noted presence of Ernie Henry, Dorham is satisfied by the firm rhythm section such a group requires: Eddie Mathias, a very promising young bassist from Philadelphia (replaced by the redoubtable Wilbur Ware at the final session); and the steady drumming of G. T. Hogan.
Dorham’s previous LP for Riverside is –
Jazz Contrasts: KENNY DORHAM, with Sonny Rollins, Hank Jones, Oscar Pettiford, Max Roach,
Betty Glamman (RLP 12-239)
He is also featured on –
The Modern Touch: BENNY GOLSON Sextet; with J. J. Johnson, Kenny Dorham (RLP 12-256)
That’s Him!: ABBEY LINCOLN sings, with Sonny Rollins, Kenny Dorham, Wynton Kelly, Paul Chambers,
Max Roach (RLP 12-251)
Presenting ERNIE HENRY, with Kenny Dorham, Kenny Drew (RLP 12-222)
Henry can also be heard on –
Seven Standards and a Blues: ERNIE HENRY Quartet; with Wynton Kelly (RLP 12-248)
Brilliant Corners: THELONIOUS MONK, with Sonny Rollins, Ernie Henry, Clark Terry (RLP 12-226)
A HIGH FIDELITY Recording - Riverside-Reeves SPECTRONIC High Fidelity Engineering
(Audio Compensation: RIAA Curve).
Produced, and notes written by, ORRIN KEEPNEWS.
Cover photograph by Charles Ingle
Cover design: Paul Bacon
Photograph of Kenny Dorham by Lawrence Photo.
Engineer: Jack Higgins (Reeves Sound Studio)
RIVERSDIE RECORDS are released by BILL GRAUER PRODUCTIONS
553 West 51st Street New York 19, N.Y.