Kenny Dorham Gets A Plaque

Dorham Blues in BebopIn notes for the 1998 issue of Kenny Dorham: Blues in Bebop, I wrote:

More than a quarter-century after his death, Kenny Dorham is a beacon of encouragement shining across the landscape populated by young jazz musicians. In a generation of imitators, a few perceptive players have discovered Dorham’s lyricism, his magic with harmony, the wistfulness of his tone, and his articulation, which is like intimate speech. Dorham’s compositions increasingly make their way into repertoires and his “Blue Bossa” has deservedly become a standard.

Dorham Plaque

KD’s hometown has honored its famous son with the plaque pictured above and a festival named after him. The main event takes place tomorrow night in Fairfield, Texas, a town of 3,000 about halfway between Dallas and Houston. For details and to read about the tribute, see this article in the Freestone County Times.

For a taste of Dorham’s lyricism and ability to construct a cogent melody “right through a chord structure,” as Charlie Shoemake put it after the last time we posted this video, here is a snippet that seems to be the only known film of Dorham performing. His rhythm section at the Golden Circle in Stockholm in 1963 was Goran Lindberg, piano; Goran Peterson, bass; and Leif Wennerstron, drums.

If you’re in the market for a more extensive KD fix, this YouTube page may meet your need.

Email this to someoneShare on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Reddit


  1. Terence Smith says

    Kenny Dorham is also honored in Austin, Texas, USA, where he ( like Teddy Wilson before him, I believe) attended Anderson High School. There is now a school in Austin for gifted kids called the Kenny Dorham School, and there are murals and plaques of the trumpeter/composer/ visionary nearby.

    In the autobiography that Miles Davis “wrote” with Quincy Troupe, there is a story of Dorham sitting in with the Miles Davis Quintet and really playing awesomely inspired stuff. Altoist Jackie McLean was in the audience and reportedly advised Miles, “Kenny Dorham is playing so beautiful he is making you sound like an imitation of yourself, Miles.” There is no best in the world of jazz trumpet but it is easy to hear why Art Blakey used to introduce Dorham as “The Uncrowned King.”

    Thanks for highlighting Fairfield Texas’ Favorite Son. And let’s none of us miss KD on:

    “Soft Winds” on Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers, Live at the Café Bohemia Vol. 1 (Or “Prince Albert”/ “All the Things You Are”).

    Thelonious Monk Sextet, Blue Note Records 1952: Let’s Cool One, “Carolina Moon” and several other numbers.

    Jazz Contemporary, LP record, 1960, Kenny Dorham Quintet with Charles Davis and Steve Kuhn.

    Or anything else by Kenny of course!

    All these records are monuments.

  2. Frank Roellinger says

    Thanks for posting this, Doug. It’s really uplifting to see that plaque and all the people in that photo. Hats off to the Trinity Star Arts Council! There should be groups like that all over this country.

    • Terence Smith says

      Frank, I don’t know if this is off the subject, but I once tried to contact the Baton Rouge ( Louisiana) City Council to see if they could somehow memorialize or make a historical building of the little house once owned by Harry Evans. The home in which Bill Evans composed “Waltz for Debby” in 1954 in the presence of its dedicatee, his niece Debby Evans.

      The council didn’t react positively, and seemed to think “Bill Evans” must be some kind of obvious assumed name!

  3. Evette Dorham says

    Thanks Doug Ramsey for the article, and thanks to the readers for their comments. As you can imagine we’re very thrilled dad has a permanent plaque and jazz festival in his hometown.

    Yes, L.C. Anderson was his high school however I wasn’t aware there’s a school in Austin and will look them up.

    Stop by my Facebook page or the Official Kenny Dorham group on FB. Great fans, musicians and all things KD!

    Evette Dorham

    • Terence Smith says


      As you well know, your father was already Immortal based on his recordings with Charlie Parker alone. Beginning about December 1948 when Kenny Dorham took over the trumpet chair in the Charlie Parker Quintet.

      And of course, he went on to SO much more. My list in an earlier e-mail was just personal favorites I think might get overlooked in the gallery of your father’s legacy.

      You are probably aware of another Austin, Texas feature of that legacy: “Kenny Dorham’s Backyard”. It is located at 1106 E 11th, and is a 2-acre space ” managed by Diverse Arts to bring East Austin a unique and creative community space.” It has an open community art gallery, music space, and community garden.

      I think the Kenny Dorham school may be “temporarily closed.”

      I hope everybody gets to hear your dad’s records. There are so many great ones that your favorite is likely to be the last one you have listened to! In my case, that’s Kenny Dorham playing “Passport” with Charlie Parker. Wow.

  4. red sullivan says

    “Immortal”, as used above by a fellow commenter, is a good word for this man…
    My favourite, the greatest I ever heard, is KD on “Bye Bye Blackbird” from a Danish radio b’cast issued on SteepleChase on the CD Short Story. When I say “the greatest I ever heard”, I really do mean for consideration as the greatest soloing on any instrument in all of jazz, ever. KENNY DORHAM!!!!!!!!!!! (Danish rhythm section is also superb on this – with the Catalan master, Teté Montoliu, on piano, wailing… just wailing).

    You’re so right – there’s something “so personal” and conversational about the way Kenny Dorham plays… it’s incredibly valuable, unto today. (I heard one marvellous musician evaluate Dorham, hugely admiringly, in terms of his playing being “pure harmonic information”. It’s true he has that infallible commanding intelligence at all times – but it’s also so much more. SO much more. It’s like an embrace in the world…).