Kenny Dorham: Lotus Blossom

25 Feb

It’s easy to overlook trumpeter Kenny Dorham — his contemporaries were Miles Davs, Dizzy Gillespie and Lee Morgan, he died young, and even his 1972 death was overshadowed by Morgan’s that same year. Morgan, 33, died even younger than Dorham and more sensationally (in a lover’s quarrel).

Born McKinley Howard Dorham in 1924, Dorham’s career got going after a stint in the army, where he was on the boxing team. After his discharge, he played with Charlie Parker, was a Jazz Messenger with Art Blakey and replaced Clifford Brown after Brown’s death in 1956  in the Max Roach Quintet. But it was his friendship with and mentoring of Joe Henderson that is probably most enduring — Henderson was the first to record Dorham’s Blue Bossa to much acclaim.

Dorham was always held in high regard by his music colleagues, although once on liner notes to his own album he was called “a journeyman trumpet player.” Few would agree. But Dorham couldn’t maintain his career in the mid-1960s and he took day jobs outside the studio. He worked for the post office and wrote reviews for Downbeat Magazine.

He died of kidney failure in 1972. He was only 48 years old.

Saxophonist Jackie McLean on hardbop.tripod.com: “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.”

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