types Bob Dor­ough and Grace Kelly at the Frank Mor­gan Taos Jazz Fes­ti­val


Bob Dor­ough, the jazz singer known for a light, bouncy, al­most free-form vo­cal tal­ent on songs like “Devil May Care” and “You’re the Dan­ger­ous Type,” ap­pears on Fri­day, Nov. 18, at the Frank Mor­gan Taos Jazz Fes­ti­val. He plays pi­ano and sings in a quar­tet with drum­mer Lorca Hart, bassist Ed­ward Har­ring­ton, and gui­tarist Al Schack­man. “Al and I played to­gether many years ago,” said Dor­ough, who is now ninety-two and still singing up a storm. “We used to trou­ba­dour around a lit­tle, just the two of us, and pick up bass play­ers and drum­mers. He’s on my 1966 al­bum Just About Ev­ery­thing, and we did a record­ing of a jazz ver­sion of Oliver.”

Schack­man went on to be the long­time gui­tarist in Nina Si­mone’s band. Dor­ough has pri­mar­ily been known for his work in bop and cool jazz, but he also worked with The Fugs. He pro­duced and sang on Spanky and Our Gang’s 1968 al­bum Like to Get to

Know You. “Yeah, I was try­ing to make a liv­ing,” he told Pasatiempo. “It was sort of the rock ’n’ roll years. I didn’t get that many jazz jobs in the ’60s.”

Dor­ough was born in Arkansas and was a pi­ano player un­til the early 1950s, when he be­gan singing. His first al­bum, 1955’s Devil May Care, in­cluded two orig­i­nals, as well as a ver­sion of Char­lie “Bird” Parker’s “Yard­bird Suite” (with new Dor­ough lyrics); “Ow!” by Dizzy Gille­spie; “Bal­ti­more Ori­ole” by Hoagy Carmichael; and “I Don’t Mind” by Duke Elling­ton and Billy Stray­horn.

“When I first came to New York, I was in­ter­ested in be­bop, lis­ten­ing to Char­lie Parker and Dizzy Gille­spie and ev­ery­body when I could af­ford the clubs. We jammed all the time, me and a bunch of other young guys. New York was full of Bird-lov­ing young mu­si­cians from all over the coun­try, be­fore Europe in­vaded, in a way; we were all pretty much Amer­i­cans and Cana­di­ans jam­ming to­gether. And of course I sort of low-tailed the singing, be­cause you know us be­bop­pers con­sid­ered it a lit­tle corny to sing.”

In the late 1950s, band­leader/trum­peter Miles Davis had the op­por­tu­nity to lis­ten to Devil May Care ata mu­tual friend’s house in Los Angeles. When Dor­ough fi­nally met him at a quin­tet gig, he ex­pected Davis to say some­thing like, “I like your LP,” or “I’m happy to meet you, Bob.” In­stead, the mer­cu­rial jazzman “grabbed me by my wrist and said, ‘Bob, go up and sing “Bal­ti­more Ori­ole.’ ” He drug me up to the band­stand and shooed off the horn play­ers, [John] Coltrane and Can­non­ball [Ad­der­ley] and the pi­ano player and said, ‘Take a break. Bob’s gonna sing one.’ It was pretty bizarre. I knew ev­ery­body in his band ex­cept him. So I sang one song with Paul [Cham­bers, the bassist] and Jimmy [Cobb, drums]. Then Miles and I be­came kind of friends.

“We’d go to a party and he’d drag me aside and say, ‘Play me a song’, and I’d sing ev­ery­thing hip that I knew, not only my own songs but ‘Spring Can Re­ally Hang You Up the Most,’ things like that. I knew he had big ears. I was just singing my best stuff for him, and even­tu­ally he com­mis­sioned me to write the Christ­mas song.” Not too long be­fore, Dor­ough had been the open­ing act for the Miles Davis Quin­tet at the Vil­lage Van­guard for one night. “One day he called me. I was work­ing in the Po­conos, where I now live. I was work­ing a ho­tel job, play­ing pi­ano at a ho­tel, and he called me up one day: ‘Bob, [here Dor­ough af­fected a growly Miles voice] I want you to write me a Christ­mas song.’ I said, ‘Miles, how you do­ing? Great to hear from you. What do you mean, a Christ­mas song?’ ”

He was in­formed it would be for a Columbia Records disc called Jin­gle Bell Jazz. “And you’re go­ing to sing it with me, Bob,” Davis added. With tin­gling spine, Dor­ough went right to work. The song, “Blue Xmas (To Whom It May Con­cern),” ap­peared on the 1962 LP along with tunes by Car­men McRae, Duke Elling­ton, Pony Poin­dex­ter, Dave Brubeck, and other stars of the day.

Did Davis ever sing? “I don’t think so,” Dor­ough re­sponded. “He’d just tell some­body, ‘It goes like this: Do dah deh’ — you know, non-singing. I’ve al­ways felt that ev­ery mu­si­cian can sing, or could sing, be­cause if you’re a mu­si­cian you have good ears and you can carry the melody, at least. But there’s a cer­tain em­bar­rass­ing qual­ity about singing. A lot of mu­si­cians con­sider them­selves mu­si­cians and ar­rangers and play­ers, but they wouldn’t ever sing a song. There are ex­cep­tions, of course. I was in­spired by Jack Tea­gar­den and Louis Armstrong and Nat King Cole and Joe Mooney — and even Diz would sing some. Diz was my hero, re­ally. He was the great­est.”

Dor­ough also worked over the years with Blos­som Dearie, Roberta Flack, and Art Gar­funkel. Both Mel Tormé and Her­bie Mann cov­ered Dor­ough’s “Comin’ Home Baby!” on their al­bums, and more re­cently, his songs were sung or played by Diana Krall (“Devil May

Grace Kelly, who is just twenty-four, got to make mu­sic with Frank Mor­gan. “Frank could play as fast as any­body, but what he re­ally cared about was the sound and the melodies ... that would touch peo­ple’s hearts,” she said.

Care”) and Dave Dou­glas (“Noth­ing Like You”). In the early ’70s, Dor­ough be­gan writ­ing and di­rect­ing

School­house Rock!, an ed­u­ca­tional tele­vi­sion se­ries for kids. He plans to do a School­house Rock! show at one of Taos’ grade schools.

For the fes­ti­val, pre­sented by the Taos Jazz Be­bop So­ci­ety, Dor­ough will do four or five songs from Just

About Ev­ery­thing, plus a few from Devil May Care and “a Phil Woods song, a be­bop­per,” he said. “Oh, and my daugh­ter’s go­ing to join the band.” The singer’s daugh­ter, Aralee Dor­ough, who is prin­ci­pal flutist with the Hous­ton Sym­phony, will join the quar­tet for a few songs.

The next night, Dor­ough will guest on a song on a stage led by sax­o­phon­ist and singer Grace Kelly. That per­for­mance also fea­tures a quar­tet, with pi­anist Josh Nel­son and bassist Ed­ward Har­ring­ton. In an early No­vem­ber in­ter­view, Kelly said Reg­gie Austin, who served time and made jazz con­comi­tantly with fes­ti­val name­sake Frank Mor­gan in San Quentin State Prison, will sit in, too. Kelly is no new­comer to the area. She played Gig Per­for­mance Space with her band a year ago and was a mem­ber of Terri Lyne Car­ring­ton’s Mo­saic Project, which played the Len­sic Per­form­ing Arts Cen­ter dur­ing the 2014 New Mex­ico Jazz Fes­ti­val. She was in­spired to learn the sax­o­phone early in life, lis­ten­ing to her mother play al­bums by Stan Getz. She went on to learn un­der Lee Konitz and play with Phil Woods.

Kelly, who is just twenty-four years old, recorded her first four al­bums be­fore she was six­teen — and she got to make mu­sic with Mor­gan. “In the last year of his life, we got re­ally close. He ba­si­cally be­came like a grand­fa­ther to me and he brought me all around. I played 10 sets with him at the Jazz Stan­dard. We had plans to do a lot more shows to­gether. He was an in­cred­i­ble men­tor. I re­mem­ber one time he told me to al­ways keep my fin­gers close to the pearls [the sax­o­phone’s pearl key-but­tons], es­pe­cially when play­ing fast. He’d al­ways give me nuggets of gold be­fore the per­for­mance or in the dress­ing room, but for the most part what I re­ally learned from him was kind of like os­mo­sis on the stage — like our sounds blend­ing to­gether — and he would tell me how to prac­tice bal­lads and see how qui­etly I could play. Frank could play as fast as any­body, but what he re­ally cared about was the sound and the melodies and the bal­lads that would touch peo­ple’s hearts.”

For most of her young ca­reer, the alto sax­o­phone has been Kelly’s main squeeze, but she has branched out to so­prano and bari­tone saxes, flute, and even per­cus­sion. Most re­cently, she has been ex­per­i­ment­ing with the EWI (elec­tric wind in­stru­ment), but she said she’ll prob­a­bly just bring the alto and so­prano to New Mex­ico.

Brand new from Kelly is her She’s the First an­them, which was made into a mu­sic video cel­e­brat­ing the work of a New York or­ga­ni­za­tion that pro­vides ed­u­ca­tion schol­ar­ships to girls in low-in­come coun­tries. Just be­fore her trip to Taos, Kelly was set to play the renowned Bird­land jazz club in New York City. Next win­ter, from Feb. 4 to 11, she joins Joshua Red­man, The Bad Plus, Pat Metheny, and many other mu­si­cians for the Blue Note at Sea Cruise.

For the Frank Mor­gan Taos Jazz Fes­ti­val, she’ll be per­form­ing jazz stan­dards, some tunes she once per­formed along­side Mor­gan, and songs from her new­est al­bum, Try­ing to Fig­ure it Out. This CD de­parts from the pure-jazz fla­vors of 2007’s Grace­fullee and 2011’s

Man With The Hat, her al­bums with Lee Konitz and Phil Woods, re­spec­tively. “Jazz and be­yond” is how she de­scribes the mu­sic recipe on Try­ing to Fig­ure

it Out. “I was twenty-three when I made it, and I’ve done a lot of tra­di­tional jazz al­bums, which I love. But I thought I should show that I’m sort of fus­ing to­gether a lot of in­flu­ences I have, from the foun­da­tion of straight-ahead jazz to more con­tem­po­rary stuff to cov­er­ing a Cold­play song that I love — that range of what it feels like to be me in 2016.”


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