, renowned bebop trumpeter
was born (as McKinley Dorham)
30 Aug 1924 in Fairfield, Texas
and died 5 Dec 1972
of kidney failure
. Although his is one of the big names in the
it is universally acknowledged and lamented that Dorham never
achieved the wider public recognition he deserved. His playing
style was unique, a voice of his own, and he worked steadily
for decades as a leader and a sideman with giants of his generation;
he was a musician's musician.
Alto saxophonist Jackie McLean
said of Dorham:
I want to do a book on some of the musicians that I feel were bypassed,
like Kenny Dorham. Most people know Kenny, but Kenny during
his whole lifetime never got the accolades and never got the
roses that he should have received for all that he gave us.
Kenny started playing piano when he was 7 years old. In high
school he made the switch to trumpet after a flirtation with
tenor saxophone. After a stint in the
U.S. Army, Dorham a big band led by fellow trumpeter Russell Jacquet,
older brother of Illinois Jacquet. Following this he played
briefly in the bands of Billy Eckstine, Dizzy Gillespie,
Lionel Hampton and Mercer Ellington. In 1948 Dorham replaced
Miles Davis in Charlie Parker's quintet. Later he again had
large shoes to fill as he joined the Max Roach Quintet following
Clifford Brown's tragic death in 1956. But perhaps Kenny Dorham's
most famous work started in 1954 when he was a founding member
of Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers which became a pillar in the
jazz community and was referred to as a finishing school for
budding jazz greats.
Throughout the 1950s and 1960s Dorham worked steadily as a leader,
often in the form of the Jazz Prophets, and as a sideman. One
collaborator in particular was tenor saxophonist Joe Henderson.
Others who played with Dorham under his leadership were
pianists Bobby Timmons and Herbie Hancock,
guitarist Kenny Burrell, and drummer Tony Williams, to name a few.
Dorham's style was his own blend of long, flowing lines and
sharply articulated riffs. He frequently chose songs with blues
chord changes as vehicles for his creation. It is only because the
era was rich with jazz virtuosi such as Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Davis,
and Fats Navarro in the 1940s and by Clifford Brown
and Lee Morgan in the 1950s that Kenny Dorham never garnered
the admiration of the public that was felt by his peers.
Nice Kenny Dorham tribute, discography, and biography at