Music » Livewire

Bob Dorough

Wednesday, March 21, at Nighttown.


For decades, composer/pianist Bob Dorough has been one of the most delightful entertainers in jazz. Born in 1923 in Cherry Hill, Arkansas, Dorough was boxer Sugar Ray Robinson's music director for a couple of years, when Robinson was trying to establish himself as a nightclub performer. In 1956, he cut an album for the Bethlehem label; full of wry, witty vocals, it gained him a cult following that he's retained over the years. His work has an unusual combination of sophistication and folksiness, with clever lyrics sung in a discernible country accent. In certain respects, his style has much in common with Mose Allison. Both are not only hip vocalists from the rural South, but quite capable jazz pianists. Dorough has performed frequently as a non-singing sideman with small jazz groups. While in Los Angeles during the late '50s and early '60s, he jammed with, among others, Ornette Coleman. In 1962, Dorough sang one of his tunes, "Blue Xmas," with a band led by Miles Davis; the song has since appeared on several anthologies. From 1973-'85, he composed for and was music director of the children's animated educational television series "Schoolhouse Rock," which received critical acclaim. He then went back to performing in nightclubs in the United States and Europe, where he also has a following. In recent years, Dorough's relaxed, humorous work has been heard on Blue Note CDs such as Right on My Way Home, Too Much Coffee, Man, and most recently, Who's on First, on which he's a co-leader with another clever, insightful pianist/composer, Dave Frishberg. On it, Dorough sounds as charming as ever; now 78, he hasn't lost a thing.

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