If a singer doesn't have a great voice, he (or she) would be well-served by having a keen sense of humor. Singer/songwriter Bob Dorough doesn't have a great voice, but he has a good one, which he uses ingeniously, and as for the sense of humorwell, he once served for two years as music director for boxer Sugar Ray Robinson, and if that's not funny, I don't know what is. (Sugar Ray actually enjoyed a brief career as a singer/entertainer once his boxing skills had faded.) In any event, Dorough's many devoted fans don't attend his concerts expecting to hear Pavarotti, but rather some of the hippest and wittiest songs ever written. And Dorouogh always gives them what they crave.
Such is the case with Dorough's weekly gig at New York's Iridium Jazz Club, where he holds forth on Sunday afternoons and where his latest album for Arbors Records was taped. On the one hand, Dorough is as down-home and affable as his Arkansas roots would suggest (he's a member of the Arkansas Jazz Hall of Fame); on the other, he's as urbane and observant as, say, Cole Porter or Bobby Short.
Although Dorough's music is hard to describe, he reminds me of a musical equivalent of comedian George Carlininvariably humorous, markedly perceptive and squarely on target. Millions of young people know him from his "other side," as music director/songwriter (1973-85) for ABC-TV's educational cartoon series Schoolhouse Rock, for which he helped make math, grammar, history, and science palatable to young viewers while winning Grammy and Emmy awards for his creaativity and vision.
Dorough reprises two of the songs from Schoolhouse Rock, "Three Is a Magic Number" and "Electricity, Electricity," on Sunday at Iridium (and here the remembrance is of Tom Lehrer), but almost everything else is ultra-hip, from Bobby Troup's "You're Looking at Me" to Curtis Stigers' "How Could a Man Take Such a Fall" and Dorough's own "You're the Dangerous Type," "Ain't No Spoofin'," "Baby Used to Be," and "Without Rhyme or Reason."
Dorough is ably supported throughout by guitarist Steve Berger, bassist Steve Gilmore, and drummer Ed Ornowski, with guest appearances by trumpeter Joe Wilder ("Ain't No Spoofin'," "Sunday"), vocalist Daryl Sherman ("Rhyme or Reason") and the Bobettes ("Comin' Home Baby," "Electricity"). Dorough's closing theme, "We'll Be Together Again," arrives far too soon. Not a great voice but a great singer/storyteller, still at the top of his game after more than half a century doing what he does best.
Personnel: Bob Dorough, piano, vocals; Steve Berger, guitar; Steve Gilmore, bass; Ed Ornowski, drums. The Bobettes (9, 19) -- Laura Amico, Roslyn Hart. Special guests -- Joe Wilder (7, 17), trumpet; Daryl Sherman (15), vocal, piano.