Why Kenny Dorham?

Because it has been too long since you’ve heard him, and because these two videos are—by all accounts—the only ones in existence that show him playing. His rhythm section at the Golden Circle in Stockholm in 1963 was Goran Lindberg, piano; Goran Peterson, bass; and Leif Wennerstron, drums. Please disregard the lead-in advertisement and the dreadful picture quality. Let us simply be grateful that these films exist.

Dorham’s solo in this brief second clip is some of his most astonishingly beautiful playing.

Kenny Dorham died in 1972 at the age of 48. The album Blues In Bebop has his early work with Billy Eckstine, Bud Powell, Milt Jackson, Charlie Parker and Bud Powell, in that order. Our Thing, a basic repertoire item, documents his 1963 partnership with tenor saxophonist Joe Henderson.

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  1. Andy Sechrist says

    “Short Story” with Joe Henderson is a classic and one of my favorites. Thanks for posting these rare clips of a talented, yet underrated jazz great.

    • Ken Dryden says

      Here’s what Steve Kuhn had to say about the late trumpeter, taken from a phone interview I did with the pianist on March 7, 2011:

      “He was a lovely man but didn’t care about the business. He felt as though he never got the recognition, that he was on the same level as Miles and Dizzy. His playing was distinct, he helped me a lot in voicing chords. I had not worked with a quintet much, so it was another experience being the only Caucasian in the band. Charles Davis and I shared a room when we were on the road. Kenny opened up doors for me, along with my eyes and ears. He furthered my education.”

  2. Gavin Walker says

    Kenny WAS on the same level as Fats, Dizzy and Miles but was always treated during his lifetime as a very good and competant “also-ran”. He was overshadowed in the 40’s by the more outgoing and spectacular styles of Fats and Dizzy. In the 50’s the attention was on Clifford Brown and newcomers like Lee Morgan and Donald Byrd and in the 60’s by Freddie Hubbard, Morgan, Woody Shaw et al.. It was always “oh yeah and Kenny Dorham too”. He could sing, arrange, play piano and tenor saxophone and was a true musical giant in every way…..now that he’s long gone we all know better!

    • Rob D says

      I always loved Kenny Dorham. So did everyone else that I knew that seemed to have any interest in jazz. But it’s so true- he was always sort of relegated to the “pretty good but not top tier” section of most critic’s notebooks. Or so it seemed.

      I love Dizzy and Miles but Kenny’s records get played a lot in my house. Not being an expert, I always defer to musicians and critics and other knowledgeable people about his ranking in the great trumpet order.

      But just from the standpoint of repeated listenings? He’s right there with them.

  3. Denis Ouellet says

    From the first note, you know it’s Kenny Dorham. A beautiful sound and incredible delivery.
    From his work with Bird, Jackie Mclean, Joe Henderson to name a few he really spans a wide spectrum.
    Truly a unique voice.

    Thank you for these clips.

  4. says

    Like Hank Mobley Kenny Dorham WAS undervalued to the extreme. I always felt that his sophistication harmonically (beautiful melodies right through the chord structures of the tunes) was one of the reasons. The casual jazz listener can’t hear that or appreciate the artistry that goes into it. Horace Silver told me once that he had never ever worked with a front line as harmonically hip as that of Dorham and Mobley.

  5. says

    No one, not even Miles, could improvise as unique and fresh as Kenny Dorham. That’s right: Kenny was no business man. But he wasn’t the only one who didn’t care much for the monetary, for the commercial part of jazz: Red Rodney, Lester Young, Bud Powell, Chet Baker, and even Charlie Parker, just to mention a few of his peers.

    Miles may have been a big shot, but he knew very well, that, as an artist and improvisor, he was no match to Kenny. How come that he permitted Kenny to play a complete 2nd set with his famous quintet of the 1960’s, the one with Wayne, Herbie, Ron and Tony? Miles left the stage for one of jazz’s true trumpet geniuses.

    Bassist Wayne Dockery once told me: “Miles was in fact intimidated of Kenny Dorham.” — Just listen to those straight, almost vibrato-less, somehow pained long tones. The only one who could evoke the very same feeling of pain and could improvise with a similarly uncompromising severity was Booker Little.