Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Meet Bob Dorough

I first learned about Bob Dorough almost 20 years ago, when my friend Ben played a Miles Davis song called “Blue Xmas (To Whom It May Concern.)” Bob was the singer on this record, as well as the lyricist. I was intrigued by his quirky lyrics and his unique singing voice. I said to myself “if Miles recruited this guy to sing with him, he must have done some incredible stuff on his own.” In the ensuing years, I realized how true that was. Eventually, I got the chance to meet him, and even got to perform with him once in the late 90’s.

Bob Dorough was born in Arkansas, and grew up in Arkansas and Texas. After attending North Texas State, he moved to New York City, and the adventure began. He began to make waves as a jazz singer/pianist/composer, first playing with Blossom Dearie then releasing his first solo album, “Devil May Care,” in 1956. Miles Davis heard the album, and asked Bob to write and sing with him.

After a few more solo albums, he began working as a producer, and also did some commercial jingle writing and production. Through this work, he came to the attention of George Newall and Tom Yohe, who were putting together a project called “Schoolhouse Rock.” Over the 13 years the original episodes were produced, Bob produced all the recordings, and he wrote and sang many of the songs as well.

Even while he was producing the “Schoolhouse” sessions, Dorough never gave up his first love, singing and playing jazz, and he returned to it with gusto after the series ended. He did a series of albums for Blue Note in the late 1990’s, and released a live album earlier this year after performing a series of dates in England. What is truly amazing about this is the fact that he is now 82 years old! I looked at his website (www.bobdorough.com) and was amazed to see that he still performs regularly, having just completed a couple of dates in New York City.

Bob Dorough is truly a renaissance man, and has worn many musical hats over the years. He has a unique, expressive singing voice, and is a talented pianist. He is an especially gifted songwriter, both lyrically and musically, and I have always felt that is where his true genius lies. Even if you can’t find his recordings, other artists have covered some of his best songs. Here are a few choice song titles:

Devil May Care
I’ve Got Just About Everything (There are many great covers of this one)
Love Came On Stealthy Fingers
Small Day Tomorrow
Conjunction Junction (from “Schoolhouse Rock”)
He also wrote a great vocalese treatment of Charlie Parker’s “Yardbird Suite”

Check out the discography on his website. Many of his albums are still available.

(I interviewed Bob in the late ‘90’s, and I hope to post that interview at some point in the near future.)
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