. Very little of this swing writing has survived in present-day retrospectivesa glaring omission, given his later popularity. In the early '40s, he became enamored with bebop and began gigging in New York leading groups as a pianist. At various times such bebop stalwarts as Fats Navarro
, all eager to join the party. On the other hand perfunctory analysis of his work has led to some critical misconceptionsthat he failed to sufficiently incorporate bop rhythms and other stylistic devices. Revisionist critical commentary of Dameron's contribution is much needed and that is bound to come because of tributes like the one at Smoke.
On the night I attended I had to catch the last of three sets and, by that time, most of the Dameron standards had already been performed. Actually, only one of his compositions, "Ladybird," was left, but Webber dazzled the late nighters on this tune with some interesting intervallic leaps. Dameron's melodies often transcend octaves, making them difficult for singerswhich may be the reason vocal recordings of his songs are relatively rare. But knowledgeable instrumentalists find the heads fodder for exploratory improvisations.
Dameron's groups in the early '50s often featured trumpeter Clifford Brown
, who continually performed and recorded Dameron tunes like "The Scene is Clean" throughout his career. After years of drug abuse, which included a two-year prison sentence, Dameron passed away in 1961 at age 48 but his music has never been forgotten thanks to many tributes such as the annual birthday celebration at Smoke.