132

Kenny Dorham: Whistle Stop

Robert Spencer By

Sign in to view read count
If you’re looking for "straight ahead" jazz (in near-perfect form), here it is. Kenny Dorham plays here with the burning rhythm section John Coltrane used on Blue Train : Kenny Drew on piano, Paul Chambers on bass, and Philly Joe Jones on drums. Hank Mobley adds his tenor sax to this 1961 session that features Kenny mining the blues and more in a variety of contexts.

"’Philly’ Twist" is a Parkerian (Charlie, not Evan, folks) blues with energetic comping from the trio behind bouncy solos from Dorham and Mobley. Philly Joe, to whom the tune is dedicated, turns in a powerful, driving solo. An interesting contrast is set up when this tune gives way to the strolling blues funk of "Buffalo." The soloists give examples of the endless permutations of the blues form. "Buffalo" is the kind of piece that led to the development of rock and roll, but the imagination and depth put into the form here was never heard on the Top Forty.

"Sunset" begins with some sensitive voicings by Kenny Drew that lead into Dorham’s muted solo. Even with the mute, his confident, muscular individual tone is heard clearly. Mobley adopts a complementary reflective stance and turns in his best playing on this album; Drew’s solo is light-fingered and moody. "Sunset" is evidence that all modal pieces do not have to make the players sound as if they’re imitating Miles and Trane. In his Autobiography Miles tells of a night when Dorham cut him to pieces on the bandstand; while that ferocious night is lost to us, Dorham shows here how sure-handed he was in his ability to adopt innovations and create individual work of high quality.

"Whistle Stop" has a strange, vertiginous opening in which the horns seem to suggest a Mariachi band, or a dream about a Mariachi band; in any case, it very quickly gives way to a burner of ever-increasing intensity, wherein Philly Joe gives us what Anthony Braxton calls "clouds of garbage cans"—but every one precisely and correctly placed. The front line keeps up with him right up to the end, where the tequila-haze Mariachi band reappears and is folded into the theme. A curious piece: innovative here, conventional there, with excellent musicianship throughout.

Dorham’s best solo may be his trippingly eloquent effort on "Sunrise in Mexico," where Philly Joe is, once again, imaginative and precise. Here’s the morning after the intense night of "Whistle Stop": everyone is slower, but these masters are never at a loss.

Drew displays an impressive range of ideas throughout this album. On "Windmill," a Parkerian bookend to complement "’Philly’ Twist," he never strays into aimless noodling the way some avant-garde playing did later in the decade, but in mid-solo he ventures into territory reminiscent of Coltrane’s shifts on Coltrane Plays the Blues. This whole album is characterized by top-notch playing that is adventurous within established forms.

"Dorham’s Epitaph" is one minute long and sounds unfinished. It is less elegiac than grandiose, perhaps expressing a frustrated assertiveness from a player who never received the due he obviously deserved.


Title: Whistle Stop | Year Released: 1997 | Record Label: Blue Note Records


Tags

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read Heart Knows CD/LP/Track Review Heart Knows
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: September 22, 2017
Read Jersey CD/LP/Track Review Jersey
by Geno Thackara
Published: September 22, 2017
Read Wobbly Danse Flower CD/LP/Track Review Wobbly Danse Flower
by Mike Jurkovic
Published: September 22, 2017
Read Carry Fire CD/LP/Track Review Carry Fire
by Nenad Georgievski
Published: September 22, 2017
Read A Night Walking Through Mirrors CD/LP/Track Review A Night Walking Through Mirrors
by Barry Witherden
Published: September 21, 2017
Read Jondo CD/LP/Track Review Jondo
by Jack Bowers
Published: September 21, 2017
Read "Air and Light and Time and Space" CD/LP/Track Review Air and Light and Time and Space
by John Eyles
Published: June 28, 2017
Read "Instrumental" CD/LP/Track Review Instrumental
by Mark Sullivan
Published: June 10, 2017
Read "Meeting My Shadow" CD/LP/Track Review Meeting My Shadow
by James Nadal
Published: July 22, 2017
Read "Lea Áigi" CD/LP/Track Review Lea Áigi
by Mark Sullivan
Published: December 23, 2016
Read "Live At The High Noon" CD/LP/Track Review Live At The High Noon
by Doug Collette
Published: June 22, 2017
Read "The Company I Keep" CD/LP/Track Review The Company I Keep
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: May 9, 2017

Join the staff. Writers Wanted!

Develop a column, write album reviews, cover live shows, or conduct interviews.