As you may have heard, Bob Dorough passed away this week at the age of 94. He had a range of talents, including a unique singing voice, arranging, writing and playing piano.
My favorite of his works is “The Dream Keeper”, one of his three adaptions of songs by Langston Hughes, from the Jazz Canto LP on Pacific Jazz. The other two songs are “Daybreak in Alabama” and “Night and Morn”, plus the LP features his setting of Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s “Dog”. None of these were mentioned in reports when he passed, or even on his Wikipedia page.
I wrote to Mr. Dorough in 2013 and this is what he told me about this album:
Billy Bean used to come to NYC, from his native Philadelphia, to blow in a jam session I held at my apt. – in the 50’s.
Then I lived in LA for 3 years. I had already composed and performed the three songs to Langston Hughes, with Ralph Pena on bass, at the Lenox Jazz School.
After Ralph knew I was in LA he spoke to Lawrence Lipton about the songs and Dr. L called me to ask me to record them for Jazz Canto. I said “It’s not ‘Jazz & Poetry’ – they’re ‘art songs’ in the jazz idiom.” “I want them on the album anyway,” he said. So I said, “OK, but let me do one at least that I would think of as ‘Jazz & Poetry.'”
“What would you do” he asked – without hesitation I said “Dog” by Ferlinghetti. He was astounded and said OK.
Bunker and Hardaway were just cats I’d met since moving to LA and also special pals of Pena’s.
The lineup on the album is:
Bob Dorough – piano
Ralph Pena – bass
Billy Bean – guitar
Bob Hardaway – tenor sax
Larry Bunker – drums and vibes