CD Review: Bob Dorough Eulalia

Bob Dorough Eulalia
(Merry Lane Records ML-0090. CD review by Andrew Cartmel)

Any new CD from Bob Dorough is a delight, and it’s a real privilege to still have him making records for us in his 91st year. In case his name isn’t familiar, Dorough is noted for collaborations with Blossom Dearie, Miles Davis (he’s one of the very few singers ever to work with Miles) and, yes, honestly, Sesame Street. His first album, Devil May Care, appeared almost 60 years ago, but the years have had remarkably little effect on this idiosyncratic jewel of an artist. On the cover of his 1956 début LP he stared out at us, an angry young man. Now he looks like an affable old gent. But the voice is virtually unchanged — perhaps a little mellower, but still insouciant, raspy, confiding… amusing and amused. His piano playing is, if anything, more fluent, agreeable and adroit. And his writing and knack for sardonic observation are as sharp as ever.

Love (Webster’s Dictionary), written with guest lyricists Dan Greenburg and Monty Ghertler, is a stand-out track. It is a witty deconstruction of every love song you’ve ever heard — consisting largely of verbatim definitions of the word ‘love’ as lifted from the ubiquitous American dictionary. (“Antonym: ‘hate’.”) It is set to Dorough’s deceptively simple-sounding tune, a cunning Latin construction which calls to mind a modern version of Jelly Roll Morton’s miniature masterpieces. Dorough’s nimble piano here is an ever-flowing source of rhythm and variation, inserting bright commentary while unfurling the bass foundations of the piece with the left hand. Ray Wilson plays superb, carefully calculated guitar to illuminate things.

In fact the supporting musicians are unmatched throughout. But For Now, with lyrics and music by Dorough is notable both for his own piano playing and Thomas Hultén’s growling, heartfelt trombone. A Few Days of Glory with lyrics by Fran Landesman is given a shimmering gospel treatment with Gary Mitchell Jr. conjuring yearning on Hammond organ and Warren Sneed on soprano sax giving an old time New Orleans feeling which melts into an almost abstract modernism with a lovely lyrical alto solo. This alto sax was so beautiful that I was grabbing for the CD booklet to find out who played it. Ah yes, some fellow called Phil Woods… (You begin to get an idea of the standard of musicianship on this album.)

Woods is also outstandingly gorgeous on To Be or Not to Bop, words and music by Dorough. The melding of droll, articulate lyrics and bebop here are a reminder that this is the man who ingeniously set words to Yardbird Suite over half a century ago. The tune is also a showcase for Dennis Dotson on trumpet and Steve Gilmore’s thoughtful acoustic bass.

Eulalia Reprise is a feature for a wonderful flutist, who turns out to be Aralee Dorough (first chair flute in the Houston Symphony Orchestra, no less). The virtuosic interplay between father and daughter here is a delicate marvel, assisted by the gentle, near-subliminal drumming of Herman Matthews.

The other top notch contributors to this fabulous little album are Keith Vivens on electric bass, Mike Mizma on vibes and pandeiro (a kind of Brazilian tambourine) and Tammie Bradley on vocals.

Whether you’re looking for the trademark ironic humour of his songs or simply some world-class instrumental jazz, Eulalia merits your attention.

Categories: miscellaneous

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