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My Kind of Music: Whistle Stop with Kenny Dorham, Hank Mobley et al

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My Kind of Music: Whistle Stop with Kenny Dorham, Hank Mobley et al

Thursday October 27, 2016

It started snowing early this morning. First snow of the season. Cold day outside.  After a long day at work, what better way to unwind than listening to KENNY DORHAM (trumpet), in the good company of Hank Mobley (tenor sax), Kenny Drew (piano), Paul Chambers (bass) and Philly Joe Jones (drums)?

Born McKinley Howard Dorham in Fairfield, Texas on August 30, 1924, Kenny D. was a self-taught musician who played the trumpet and piano. His music making was masterful, at par with the better-known trumpeters like Lee Morgan, Freddie Hubbard and Donald Byrd.

Tonight, I chose WHISTLE STOP (BN ST-84063), Dorham’s first Blue Note recording as a leader, originally released in 1961.  First, the music:


1. Philly Twist

2. Buffalo

3. Sunset

4. Whistle Stop

5. Sunrise in Mexico

6. Windmill

7. Dorham's Epitaph

Regardless of format or vinyl reissue I have listened to, Whistle Stop is always beautiful top tier bluesy hard-bop. All seven cuts are original compositions by Kenny Dorham.

At the time of the recording, Dorham and Mobley had already played together in the Jazz Messengers and, later, in Max Roach’s band (after the death of Clifford Brown in 1956.) The two men’s musical partnership and conversation comes through their horns with joyful confidence. 

Kenny Drew unobtrusively comps along and offers lovely piano solos. Paul Chambers and Philly Joe Jones, who were part of the Miles Davis Quintet that gave us Kind of Blue, propel the proceedings with power and unwavering rhythm. Of course, Drew, Chambers and Jones were the rhythm section on John Coltrane’s Blue Train (Blue Note BLP 1577).

All the pieces on Whistle Stop are very enjoyable indeed. However, to my ears, Sunrise in Mexico tops them, perhaps because of Chambers’ steady, walking bass and Drew’s delicious melodies.

Now, the sound: Reissued as a numbered and limited edition of 2500 copies, the Analogue Productions edition was mastered by the celebrated Kevin Gray & Steve Hoffman at AcousTech, using original master tapes. Pressed on two 180g Virgin Vinyl LPs by Record Technology, Incorporated (RTI) in Camarillo, California, these 45 RPM records sound very good indeed, certainly much better than the CD (RVG series) version and downloads that I have heard. 

I have not listened to the Classic Records (2009) or the Japanese re-issues. I have certainly not listened to the original version from 1961.

What I also listened to tonight was a mint review copy of the upcoming 33 1/3 RPM reissue that Ron Rambach, owner of Music Matters Jazz, gave me when I visited him in Oxnard, California on Friday October 21, 2016.  The sound that emanates from this 180g virgin vinyl pressing! The musical revelation! This sounds clearer and more dynamic than the Analogue Productions set, with all instruments very distinct and yet together.

On “Buffalo”, one hears Chambers’ bass with a clarity that surpasses that on other reissues. The great blues playing sounds very fresh.  Mobley’s majestic, swinging, flawless and guttural tenor is in the big Texan mode.

Dorham’s trumpet has a fatness that recalls Clifford Brown.

This is essential Jazz music, presented by an outstanding unit led by a trumpeter who was not given the accolades he rightly deserved during his life. His premature death from kidney failure on December 5, 1972 robbed us of one of the most talented players and innovators. 

That Dorham died 10 months after Lee Morgan, another great Jazz trumpeter, was murdered by his wife was a double tragedy.  Fortunately, their music lives on, thanks to the work of those who recorded, preserved and reissued their work with meticulous attention to detail.

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