March 3, 2015

Kenny Dorham - Una Mas (1963)

This date took place towards the end of Dorham's music career and even though it didn't commercially rejuvenate the 40 year old trumpeter, it helped the up and coming musicians focus and get a feel for each other and was simply a classic in the mellow-bop category that the poppy side of the Blue Note was starting to get a feel for.

Una Mas was a very important album for Blue Note and jazz as a whole. Besides the great music, it was the first time next-gen frontrunners Herbie Hancock, Anthony Williams, and Joe Henderson got together. In fact, I think this is Joe Henderson's first recording ever. Una Mas was the baton pass from the elder musicians who shaped hard bop like Dorham to the new sound of young artists pursuing the modal jazz and adventurous post bop. This also started the significant partnership between him and Joe Henderson (they'd do five more together after this).

The opening track is a 15 minute long bossa nova influenced piece and gives each of the musicians plenty of room to stretch out. Straight Ahead features some great playing from Henderson in particular and really unique traded fours with Williams. I think it was in the Miles Davis autobiography where I read that Herbie soaked up every style and sound like a sponge and received Williams' freeness well, and that is certainly the case on Una Mas. He fills all the surface area here and helps hone the warm and receptive feel of the album. Read any review for a Dorham album and everybody will say how underrated of a player he is; Miles Davis said it in his book and Andrew Hill said it in the Point Of Departure liner notes and it's true. He has a different sound than the other Blue Note trumpet players of the time (those being pretty much Hubbard, Morgan, and Byrd); he's warmer and breathier than his colleagues and he knows how to capitalize on his style with soft Latin-feeling caresses and steamy flares of very textured notes. Actually it's become such a tendency for people to call Dorham underrated that he's really not anymore!


Una Mas