This Is the Moment: KENNY DORHAM Sings and Plays
Kenny Dorham (vcl, tp) Curtis Fuller (tb) Cedar Walton (p) Sam Jones (b) Charlie Persip (drs) or G. T. Hogan (drs – on Side 1, #2 and 5;Side 2, #4 only )
New York; July – August, 1958
Autumn Leaves (2:59) (Mercer – Prevert – Kosma)
I Remember Clifford (2:54) (Hendricks – Golson)
Since I Fell for You (4:06) (Budd Johnson)
I’ll Understand (4:09) (Gannon – Wayne)
From This Moment (4:42) (Cole Porter)
This Is the Moment (2:35) (Robin – Hollander)
Angel Eyes (5:27) (Brent – Dennis)
Where Are You? (4:27) (Adamson- McHugh)
Golden Earrings (2:39) (Livingston – Evans – Young)
Make Me a Present of You (3:05) (Joseph Green)
This is the moment for which KENNY DORHAM had been waiting, more or less impatiently, for about a dozen years – the first opportunity to set down on record his highly individual vocal style.
Kenny’s desire to sing should come as a surprise even to those who have followed his career most closely. It is an ambition that most of his fellow musicians knew nothing about; and I know it took us completely by surprise when, some months ago, he dropped the idea (with deceptive casualness) into a discussion of the possible nature of his next album for Riverside. But Kenny has been a thorough-going pro long enough (in his midthirties, he has a full decade and a half as a highly regarded trumpet man under his belt) to know that performance is the way to prove a point. He had come equipped with accompanist and sheet music: he sang his way lightly through a couple of numbers, and we were convinced. What we learned then, the jazz public can now also discover – that there is a new, different, and wonderfully swinging jazz singer in our midst.
Dorham’s first small touch of vocal experience had come in the mid-1940s. During his stay with Dizzy Gillespie’s big band’s stage show format. But at the time it didn’t take him long to decide that the brief moment in the spotlight just wasn’t worth the long trip down from and back up to his seat in the trumpet section. Young Dorham’s decision to stick exclusively with his horn did pay off. In the intervening years he has developed into one of the most highly regarded of modern trumpet men. Working with (among others) Charlie Parker and Max Roach, and more recently with his own groups, he has become noteworthy as one of the few contemporary trumpets to emerge from under the huge shadows cast by Dizzy and Miles as a man with a sound and a style of his own.
But the memory of his short fling as a singer stayed with him, and the confidence he felt in his own vocal abilities slowly grew. Eventually he began to take voice lessons, not in an effort to become a “trained” singer, but simply because as a musician who has always valued training and continual practice, it was unthinkable to him to consider singing without at least a working knowledge of such as breath control, phrasing and the like.
It is of course impossible to write about a trumpet player who turns to singing without taking due note of the fact that a rather substantial number of others who have done such doubling before. The tradition of the trumpeter whose voice seems an extension of his horn is a long and varied one. It begins with Louis Armstrong and continues through, say, Chet Baker (whose singing and playing can also be heard on Riverside, on RLP 12-278). But Dorham does not fully belong to this pattern. His singing does undeniably derive much of value from his horn work; they have in common a light staccato swing, and the easy grace with which he handles just about any tempo. But there is more than that to Kenny’s singing. While it is closely allied to his playing, it is not (as is so often the case) just a sort of vocal imitation of his trumpet style. It is clear that Kenny is quite aware of a distinction, a difference in approach and function, between the two. Thus, unlike most musician-vocalists, he does not just stress sound-for-its-own-sake; he has a singer’s appreciation of the ‘message’ of the lyrics. His interpretation of a song is not a matter of excessive bending and hauling out of shape. It is, instead, expressed largely in terms of his highly developed rhythmic sense, his very personalized inflection and timing and subtle twists of phrasing.
Although the album covers a full range of tempos, from the ballad pace of Angel Eyes to a driving From This Moment On, there is an overall lightly buoyant feeling that is reflected in the fact that both Kenny and trombonist Curtis Fuller are playing muted horns at all times. Actually, most of the numbers fall into a swinging medium-tempo range (as on Autumn Leaves and the title song) in which Kenny’s vocal style seems most effective. There is also considerable variety in the formats. Some are predominantly vocal numbers, with just a touch of horn; others leave Kenny considerable blowing room (as on Angel Eyes and the blues-tinged Since I Fell for You, on which he takes a particularly moving opening solo). At one extreme, From This Moment On is a full-scale quintet instrumental almost all the way through; at the other, there is I Remember Clifford, Benny Golson’s tribute to Clifford Brown, on which Dorham chooses simply to sing one chorus of the moving Joe Hendricks lyrics, with no horns at all. The LP is, all in all, an effective mixture of the two notable talents of Kenny Dorham.
In the supporting cast there are CURTIS FULLER, the highly promising young trombonist from Detroit, who does some exceptionally tasteful work behind Kenny’s singing (as on Autumn Leaves and Since I Fell for You); CEDAR WALTON, a newcomer from Texas by way of Denver, whose recording debut here is distinguished by most sensitive and imaginative piano accompaniment; the strong, firm bassist SAM JONES, who has worked with Gillespie and Cannonball Adderley and has done stand-out work on several recent Riverside LPs; CHARLIE PERSIP, best known for his work in propelling Dizzy’s big band, but equally adept at the more subdued requirements of this session. (Persip is replaced by G. T. Hogan on three selections.)
Dorham is also featured o such Riverside LPs as –
Jazz Contrasts: KENNY DORHAM, with Sonny Rollins (RLP 12-239)
2 Horns/ 2 Rhythm: KENNY DORHAM Quartet; with Ernie Henry (RLP 12-255)
The Modern Touch: BENY GOLSON Sextet; with J. J. Johnson, Kenny Dorham (RLP 12-256)
That’s Him!: ABBEY LINCOL, with Sonny Rollins, Kenny Dorham, Wynton Kelly (RLP 12-251)
It’s Magic: ABBEY LINCOLN, with Benny Golson, Kenny Dorham, Art Farmer (RLP 12-277)
Presenting ERNIE HENRY, with Kenny Dorham, Kenny Drew (RLP 12-222)
Other outstanding Riverside albums include –
Mulligan Meets Monk: THELONIOUS MONK and GERRY MULILGAN (RLP 12-247)
Monk’s Music: THELONIOUS MONK Septet; with Coleman Hawkins, John Coltrane, Art Blakey (RLP 12-242)
Deeds, Not Words: MAX ROACH (RLP 12-280)
CHET BAKER in New York; with Johnny Griffin, Al Haig (RLP 12-281)
It Could Happen to You: CHET BAKER Sings (RLP 12-278)
Portrait of Cannonball: JULIAN ADDERLEY Quintet (RLP 12-269)
Freedom Suite: SONNY ROLLINS (RLP 12-258)
Way Out: JOHNNY GRIFFIN Quartet (RLP 12-274)
A HIGH FIDELITY Recording – Riverside-Reeves SPECTROSONIC High Fidelity Engineering
(Audio Compensation: RIAA Curve
Produced, and notes written by ORRIN KEEPNEWS
Cover by PAUL WELLER (photography) and PAUL BACON (design)
Engineer: JACK HIGGINS (Reeves Sound Studios)
RIVERSIDE RECORDS are released by BILL GRAUER PRODUCTIONS, Inc.
553 West 51st Street New York 19, N.Y.