With this package, we get a fine overview of the late, legendary trumpet master Kenny Dorham's earliest accomplishments. That's to say, Blues in Bebop focuses on his earlier work as a sideman, playing along with some of the finest (if short-lived) units of some of the music's masters. Here, Dorham is heard with the orchestra of Billy Eckstine, the Quintets of Charlie Parker and Cecil Payne, Milt Jackson's Sextet and a collective of fellow legends-to-be known as The Be Bop Boys.
For lovers of the late 40s heyday of the original flowering of bop, this collection will be a treasure; for those interested in that period but are unsure of where to begin, this is a fine starting point. Dorham was just beginning to form his style on these sides, a style coming out of the prominent trumpeters of that era --Gillespie, Miles, Fats Navarro. That wide, mellow-centered sound of his had yet to form -- but what company he kept on the way there! The Be Bop Boys consisted of Bud Powell, Sonny Stitt, Al Hall and Kenny Clarke, recorded in August of 1946. This band's sound was --is-- urgent, fleet, mercurial, with some hot playing from Stitt, and Dorham more than keeps up with the fast company he's in. With Milt Jackson, the sound is a tad "cooler" (what with Jackson's sparkling vibes and Julius Watkins' French horn), though Dorham sounds more assertive and thoughtful at the same time. (And you can tap your foot too, if you like, to this early "bop I cool fusion".) Then the stakes are raised, with live-on-radio at the Royal Roost recordings with the Bird himself. Dorham didn't make it into the studio with Charlie Parker, which makes these live tunes (with Al Haig and Max Roach) all the more valuable. A Charlie Parker Quintet in '49--what more can one say? By the time you get to the final set of tunes on this compilation, which finds Dorham in baritone saxophonist Cecil Payne's Quintet, one can hear the Dorham sound beginning to emerge -- easygoing yet vibrant and economical. Very soon, he would be An Influence, not thought of as "being influenced by..." or "in the mold of..." Kenny Dorham's career spanned the early years of the bebop era through the "New Thing" 60s avant garde -- he played on Andrew Hill's "Point of Departure" album, along with Eric Dolphy.
These days, Dorham's name isn't bandied about as much as Miles' or Dizzy's --but should be, as he made some darn fine jazz -- no, make that music -- in his lifetime (he died in '72), influencing such players as Randy Brecker and Byron Stripling. This compilation should, hopefully, go aways in changing that.