At a party to celebrate his 100th birthday, pianist Eubie Blake, a glass of whiskey in one hand, a cigar in the other, is reported to have observed: "If I knew I was going to live this long, I'd have taken better care of myself." Way to go. (Blake died five days laterbut he'd made his point.)
At 82, it sounds like Bob Dorough really has taken care of himself. He's lived in the fast lane since the '50s, but he whoops, hollers, soars and romances through this album like someone half his age, and attacks the piano with the same voracious gusto. It's a remarkable, still out there, high tide performance.
Small Day Tomorrow is lifted further above the ordinary by its material. Subtitled Fran Landesman Revisited, the album features twelve top-drawer, mainly mid- to up-tempo songs, all with lyrics by New York-born cafe, cabaret, counter culture, and demi-monde queen Landesman (now 78 and based in London for many years). Some of the songs are well known, others less so. All are wonderful. Landesman's effortless hipness and expressive genius make her the jazz world's answer to Dorothy Parker, and her lyrics are treasures of elegance and insight. Dorough has collaborated with Landesman since the '50s, and he co-wrote "Small Day Tomorrow" and "Nothing Like You (An Extravagant Love Song)."
Dorough is brilliantly served by a demonic bandJamie Cullum's backline of Geoff Gascoyne (bass) and Sebastiaan de Krom (drums), unleashed and on the town, plus tenor saxophonist Derek Nasheach of whom plays with electrifying energy and joie de vivre. Nash is massively enjoyable. A chameleon-like musician at home in a variety of styles, he here adopts, with complete conviction, the persona of a bar-walking throwback from the swing/rhythm & blues nexus of the '40s and '50s, fleet-footed, roaring or caressing as required, and totally undemanding of everything but your soul.
Gascoyne's partner, Trudy Kerr, who duets ravishingly with Dorough on the bitter sweet "On Top Of Mount Tipsey," takes solo vocal on "Nothing Like You," which recently gained new currency when it was restored to Miles Davis' Sorcerer, in an inferior version sung too fast and too high by Dorough over an arrangement by Gil Evans.
If this is old age, bring it on (but not yet).
Personnel: Bob Dorough: piano, vocals; Geoff Gascoyne: bass; Sebastiaan De Krom: drums; Derek Nash: tenor saxophone; Trudy Kerr: vocals (7,10).