Kenny Dorham's soft, energetic, be-bop style and confident, smooth lyrical playing has influenced countless musicians. One of the great trumpet pioneers of the bebop era, Kenny had the misfortune to play beneath the shadows cast by Gillespie, Fats Navarro, Clifford Brown and Miles Davis. He worked with most of the giants of the music in the '40s and '50s, and continued to lead his own groups through the 60s. Many of his compositions have become jazz standards (Blue Bossa, Prince Albert, Lotus Blossom, Una Mas, Whistle Stop). He used to "ghost" many of his charts, which were published under the name of Walter "Gil" Fuller.
Kenny was born into a musical family on August 30th, 1924 in Fairfield, Texas. At age 7, he began piano lessons, switching to trumpet while attending high school in Austin. His debut on the trumpet was with a dance band at Wiley College, where he studied pharmacy.
In 1942, he joined the army, becoming a member of their boxing team and in 1943, began working with trumpeter, Russell Jacquet, “Illinois” Jacquet’s older brother. He later moved to New York City, playing and singing with Dizzy Gillespie's band, as well as other groups, including Billy Eckstine, Lionel Hampton, and Mercer Ellington. He earned the nickname “Quiet Kenny” due to his quiet, subdued sound, replacing Miles Davis in Charlie Parker’s group from 1948 to 1950.
In the early 50s, Kenny began playing in New York City, recording with Thelonious Monk in ’52, and became a founding member of the Jazz Messengers with Art Blakey and Horace Silver. He later replaced Clifford Brown in the Max Roach/Clifford Brown Quintet when Clifford was killed in an automobile accident. Dorham would occasionally lead his own groups, giving early exposure to such younger men as Bobby Timmons, Herbie Hancock, Joe Henderson, Charles Davis, Kenny Burrell, Butch Warren and Tony Williams.
He was very active in the late 50s and 60s, teaching at Lennox School of Jazz, leading and touring with his own groups, co-leading groups with Joe Henderson and Hank Mobley, and recording with Barry Harris, Cedar Walton, Jackie McLean, Eric Dolphy, Charles Mingus, and Sonny Rollins. During that time, Kenny recorded an impressive series of LP's under his own name for Blue Note. His best recordings include Whistle Stop and Una Mas for Blue Note and Jazz Contemporary for Time. He was also a thoughtful reviewer for Downbeat Magazine, and attended college at NYU School of Music, teaching at the school before he died of kidney failure on December 5th, 1972.Discography
Kenny Dorham Quintet 10-inch album (Debut 1954)
Afro-Cuban Holiday 10-inch album (Blue Note 1955)
Kenny Dorham's Jazz Prophets Volumes 1 & 2 (ABC-Paramount 1956)
'Round About Midnight At The Café Bohemia (Blue Note 1956)
Jazz Contrasts (Riverside 1957)
2 Horns, 2 Rhythm (Riverside 1957)
This Is The Moment! Kenny Dorham Sings And Plays (Riverside 1958)
Blue Spring (Riverside 1959)
Quiet Kenny (New Jazz 1959)
The Arrival Of Kenny Dorham (Jaro 1959)
Jazz Contemporary (Time 1960)
Showboat (Time 1960)
with Clark Terry Top Trumpets (Jazzland 1960)
The Swingers (Jazzland 1960)
Kenny Dorham And Friends (Jazzland 1960)
Osmosis (Black Lion 1961)
Ease It (Muse 1961)
Whistle Stop (Blue Note 1961)
West 42nd Street (Black Lion 1961)
Hot Stuff From Brazil (West Wind 1961)
Inta Somethin' - Recorded "Live' At The Jazz Workshop (Pacific Jazz 1962)
Matador (United Artists 1962)
Una Mas - One More Time (Blue Note 1963)
Scandia Skies (SteepleChase 1963)
Trumpet Toccata (Blue Note 1964)
New York 1953-56 (Landscape 1993)
The Complete "Round About Midnight At The Café Bohemia (Blue Note 2002)