His was a short life that had in it a crucial and significant creativity and activity that could have filled so very many lifetimes. His was an artistry that led, taught, affected, and expressed so much beautiful music and music making.
He was labelled as underrated, seen as overshadowed by the likes of Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Davis and Lee Morgan, among others. His career touched down among so many recognized and significant players in the evolution and drama of the jazz universe, including Art Blakey and The Jazz Messengers; Dorham was a member of the first version of that group. He played with Billy Eckstine, Mercer Ellington, Charlie Parker and Max Roach. As a composer, his music attracted the best. His support of, and friendship with, Joe Henderson boosted the tenor sax player’s career.
There is something about being just to the side of the limelight; Dorham had an energy and impact that provided grounding, support, creative juices and fuels, that, in spite of being labelled underrated, meant an important place in, and a great, big piece and reality of, the music’s evolution. Another important label could have as easily read, “Could not have done without…”
The Kenny Dorham artistry was, and is, an artistry that cradled, gifted, and touched.