Kenny Dorham

McKinley Howard "Kenny" Dorham (August 30, 1924 – December 5, 1972) was an American jazz trumpeter, singer, and composer. Dorham's talent is frequently lauded by critics and other musicians, but he never received the kind of attention or public recognition from the jazz establishment that many of his peers did. For this reason, writer Gary Giddins said that Dorham's name has become "virtually synonymous with underrated."[1] Dorham composed the jazz standard "Blue Bossa", which first appeared on Joe Henderson's album Page One.

Kenny Dorham
Kenny Dorham at the Metropole Hotel in Toronto, 1954.
Background information
Birth nameMcKinley Howard Dorham
Born(1924-08-30)August 30, 1924
Fairfield, Texas, U.S.
DiedDecember 5, 1972(1972-12-05) (aged 48)
New York City, New York, U.S.
GenresJazz, bebop, mainstream jazz, hard bop
Occupation(s)Musician, bandleader, composer
InstrumentsTrumpet, vocals
Associated actsArt Blakey, Joe Henderson, Sonny Rollins, Thelonious Monk, Charlie Parker, Abbey Lincoln, Hank Mobley, Max Roach, Horace Silver


Dorham was one of the most active bebop trumpeters. He played in the big bands of Lionel Hampton, Billy Eckstine, Dizzy Gillespie, and Mercer Ellington and the quintet of Charlie Parker. He joined Parker's band in December 1948.[2] He was a charter member of the original cooperative Jazz Messengers. He also recorded as a sideman with Thelonious Monk and Sonny Rollins, and he replaced Clifford Brown in the Max Roach Quintet after Brown's death in 1956. In addition to sideman work, Dorham led his own groups, including the Jazz Prophets (formed shortly after Art Blakey took over the Jazz Messengers name). The Jazz Prophets, featuring a young Bobby Timmons on piano, bassist Sam Jones, and tenorman J. R. Monterose, with guest Kenny Burrell on guitar, recorded a live album 'Round About Midnight at the Cafe Bohemia in 1956 for Blue Note.

In 1963 Dorham added the 26-year-old tenor saxophonist Joe Henderson to his group, which later recorded Una Mas (the group also featured a young Tony Williams). The friendship between the two musicians led to a number of other albums, such as Henderson's Page One, Our Thing and In 'n Out. Dorham recorded frequently throughout the 1960s for Blue Note and Prestige Records, as leader and as sideman for Henderson, Jackie McLean, Cedar Walton, Andrew Hill, Milt Jackson and others.

Dorham's later quartet consisted of some well-known jazz musicians: Tommy Flanagan (piano), Paul Chambers (double bass), and Art Taylor (drums). Their recording debut was Quiet Kenny for the Prestige Records' New Jazz label, an album which featured mostly ballads. An earlier quartet featuring Dorham as co-leader with alto saxophone player Ernie Henry had released an album together under the name "Kenny Dorham/Ernie Henry Quartet." They produced the album 2 Horns / 2 Rhythm for Riverside Records in 1957 with double bassist Eddie Mathias and drummer G.T. Hogan. In 1990 the album was re-released on CD under the name "Kenny Dorham Quartet featuring Ernie Henry."[3][4]

During his final years Dorham suffered from kidney disease, from which he died on December 5, 1972, aged 48.

On June 25, 2019, The New York Times Magazine listed Kenny Dorham among hundreds of artists who recorded for record labels whose master recordings were reportedly destroyed in the 2008 Universal fire.[5]


As leader

As sideman

With Toshiko Akiyoshi

With Dave Bailey

  • Bash! (Jazzline, 1961) - reissued as Tommy Flanagan Trio And Sextet (Onyx/Xanadu, 1973) and under Dorham's name as Osmosis (Black Lion, 1990)

With Andy Bey

  • Andy and the Bey Sisters (1959)

With The Birdland Stars

  • On Tour (2 volumes, RCA Victor 1956)

With Art Blakey

With Rocky Boyd

  • Ease It (1961; aka West 42nd Street)

With Tadd Dameron

With Lou Donaldson

With Matthew Gee

With Herb Geller

  • Fire in the West (Jubilee 1957, Josie 1962); That Geller Feller (Fresh Sound, 2003)

With Benny Golson

With Barry Harris

With Joe Henderson

With Ernie Henry

With Andrew Hill

With Milt Jackson

With Clifford Jordan

With Harold Land

With Abbey Lincoln

With Jackie McLean

With John Mehegan

  • Casual Affair (1959)

With Gil Mellé

With Helen Merrill

With Hank Mobley

With Thelonious Monk

With Oliver Nelson

With Cecil Payne

With Oscar Pettiford

With Max Roach

With Sonny Rollins

With A. K. Salim

With Horace Silver

With Cecil Taylor

With Cedar Walton

With Randy Weston

With Barney Wilen

  • Barney (1959)
  • Un Temoin Dans La Ville (1959)

With Phil Woods


  1. Freeman, Phil (January 15, 2013). "Spotlight: Doing the Philly Twist: Kenny Dorham's Whistle Stop". Blue Note Records.
  2. Owens, Thomas (1996). Bebop. Oxford University Press. p. 111.
  3. Yanow, Scott (2000). Bebop. Miller Freeman Books. pp. 79–81. ISBN 0-87930-608-4.
  4. Listing of the 2 Horns/2 Rhythm album on, (accessed December 17, 2014).
  5. Rosen, Jody (June 25, 2019). "Here Are Hundreds More Artists Whose Tapes Were Destroyed in the UMG Fire". The New York Times. Retrieved June 28, 2019.
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