Kenny Dorham – Jazz Contrasts – Riverside RCD-30132-2   (1957/2007) 41:05 ****:

(Kenny Dorham, trumpet; Sonny Rollins, tenor saxophone; Hank Jones, piano; Oscar Pettiford, bass; Max Roach, drums; Betty Glamman, harp)

As part of Riverside producer Orrin Keepnews’ reissue collection, Kenny Dorham’s debut album for Riverside, Jazz Contrasts, has been digitally remastered. While much of the wear and tear of the master tapes is as audible as it was on the previous 1992 reissue, the horns sound a little sharper and the sound slightly fuller in many places.

The album’s first track, Falling in Love with Love, begins with a breathy solo from Dorham and Max Roach playing his hi-hat like he was snapping his fingers. During his solo, Dorham sometimes sounds a little tentative, as if he’s grasping for the next idea. The argument could be made that he is over-reliant on playing scales, but at the points when he’s playing around with the theme he sounds strong and confident. Rollins’ solo wonderfully utilizes space and silence, his playing finding the pockets and the holes in the groove to slip in and out of. Mid solo, he moves to a brassy high register for a flurry of notes, and from there begins playing lines that seem to have their own rhythm independent of the beat.

On I’ll Remember April, Dorham sounds brash and quick, issuing a volley of notes in what sounds like an attempt to play as fast as Roach’s hi-hat. This is good or bad, depending on your taste. If you like trumpet pyrotechnics, Dorham delivers; if you like more melodic solos and interesting dynamics, Dorham’s speedy scales can be hard to appreciate. Rollins, too, attempts to keep up with Roach, but he also slows down to create tension. Hank Jones’ piano solo is something to hear, as he bounces his trills off of the lower notes on his piano.

Larue features harp playing from Betty Glamman, which creates an opulent and sophisticated sound. Dorham sounds smooth and sharp, with Glamman punctuating the upbeat with harp chords. Glamman also plays on My Old Flame, where she alternates between picked notes and chords, providing a gorgeous bedrock for Rollins and Dorham to play over. The sound of Rollins soloing over harp sounds is alone worth the price of purchase.

While I found Dorham’s playing on the more upbeat tracks to be a little showy, he plays beautifully on the tracks featuring Glamman. Add the always genius Rollins to the mix, along with Hank Jones and the powerhouse Max Roach, and you have an album that continues to deliver decades after its release. Whether the new issue is necessary to own depends on how much of an audiophile you are.

Tracklist: Falling in Love With Love, I’ll Remember April, Larue, My Old Flame, But Beautiful, La Villa.

– Daniel Krow