Kenny Dorham – The Flamboyan, Queens, NY, 1963 – Uptown UPCD 2760, 53:30 *****:
(Kenny Dorham, trumpet; Joe Henderson, tenor sax; Ronnie Matthews, piano; Steve Davis, bass; J.C. Davis, drums; Alan Grant, MC)
Recorded at The Flamboyan night club, Queens, NY, Jan. 15, 1963, post-midnight broadcast.
Thank God for Uptown Records and its recent Flashback series. Following on the heels of its issue of “Lucky Thompson 1964-1965” (live nightclub and radio broadcasts of previously unissued material), they have upped the pleasure quotient considerably by unearthing a radio broadcast from 1963 from the inimitable trumpeter, Kenny Dorham. What was probably a routine event back in the prime hard bop nirvana days of the early 60s, is a major cause for celebration today – that being unreleased material from one of our deceased hard bop giants from the Golden age of Blue Note and Prestige Records. As these two labels have been forced to constantly re-issue remastered material for the upteenth time to keep hard bop collectors interested, Uptown Records, in a different fashion has found unreleased material just when we thought the well was dry. Where we have been satisfied to hear RVG remasters, and Connoisseur or Keepnews editions, with maybe a few alternate takes to make their purchase more palatable; Uptown has again (and let’s not forget their Dupree Bolton compilation of unissued material from 2008, “Fireball”), kept our hopes alive that there still is more “hidden” material still out there.
Dorham’s Flamboyan session does not disappoint. This 1963 aircheck features Dorham playing with Joe Henderson soon after they had teamed together for Dorham’s Una Mas and Henderson’s Page One Blue Note issues. Calling the rhythm section a pick-up group would be an accurate description, but for the fact that the pianist is Ronnie Matthews, who is a high quality artist, who had a long and distinguished career lasting till 2008. Bassist Steve Davis, and drummer J.C. Moses remain largely unknown, but they more than hold their own in such distinguished company as Dorham and Henderson.
The big question one might have in purchasing an aircheck recording is how passable the sound might be after digital remastering. I can honestly say that I have no complaints. Out of the nine tracks on this CD, three are intros from MC Alan Grant, introducing the selections or “interviewing” the band. MC introductions are an acquired taste and are often squirm-inducing as rather inane comments are made. However, here at least we get to hear Kenny Dorham’s voice, which is a treat. Alan Grant, at the time was a disc jockey for New York’s, WRFM. When he announces that Dorham’s Monday night sessions at the Flamboyan were free (no cover and no minimum), and that the club was only half full, we can only wince and be jealous, knowing what we would be willing to pay today to see a young and vibrant Kenny Dorham play together with Joe Henderson. Oh, well….
Track selections that night were an interesting mix of standards – I Can’t Get Started, Summertime, Autumn Leaves – coupled with at that time new Dorham compositions, Straight Ahead and Una Mas. The set is opened with Ronnie Matthews’ Dorian, which features some soulful blowing by Joe Henderson and great blues lines by Ronnie Matthews. Matthews makes do with a piano that could use some tuning, but his hands win out and this is a winning combination. On the aforementioned standards, Dorham plays well with his combination of lyrical blowing mixed with a little sour sass.
Kenny Dorham died way too early in 1972, suffering from kidney disease. Fortunately, we had Joe Henderson much longer, as Joe lived till 2001, and recorded till 1997. These two jazz giants played often together in 1963 and 1964. And to think you could have seen them together in Queens in a little night club back in the day for free, and even have an MC beg you on the radio to help fill up an empty club called The Flamboyan, which featured jazz on Monday nights. Wow, times have changed. Buy this CD and relive for 45 minutes what makes us long for the old days that will never return again. This is a must purchase!
TrackList: Dorian, I Can’t Get Started, Summertime, My Injun from Brazil (Una Mas), Autumn Leaves, Dynamo (Straight Ahead)
– Jeff Krow