KENNY DORHAM Una Mas (Blue Note)
Of all the albums I’ve been buying deaf in an attempt to extend my jazz horizons beyond the major works of Miles and Coltrane, this has been the most pleasantly surprising. I knew nothing about trumpeter Kenny Dorham, but if you can judge a man by the company he keeps the presence of Herbie Hancock and a 17-year-old Tony Williams on this 1963 recording augured well. Even so, I was ill-prepared for the excellence of side-long opener “Una Mas (One More Time)”. I suppose it’s broadly bossanova, but has the same unburstable groove of something like, for example, John Coltrane’s version of “My Favorite Things”, a performance that, for me, is about as good as jazz gets. After working its way to a dignified conclusion, someone – Dorham, I’d guess, as the shout emerges from the same point on the soundstage as his trumpet work – yells “Una mas!”, and the quintet are off again, rattling with locomotive energy. It’s a staggering, swaggering piece of music.
The flipside opens with the more traditional hard bop of “Straight Ahead”, the sort of piece that might be found at the more energetic end of a Miles, Coltrane or Herbie album. “Sao Paulo”, perhaps predictably given its title, has that bossanova thing going on again, albeit breaking out the blues for a few bars at a time.
“Una Mas” might be barely thirty minutes long, but it must rate as one of the most exhilarating half-hours in jazz. It’s a shame, therefore, that it’s escaped the attention of the myriad audiophile Blue Note reissue projects currently competing for the vinyl-buying jazz lover’s folding stuff. The sole pressing currently available in the UK is a product of the mysterious Scorpio concern (apparently the 304 Park Ave. South address on the back cover is the giveaway), and my copy sounds horribly distorted in places and more generally of a far lower sonic standard than I’ve come to expect from Rudy Van Gelder’s recordings.