Texas poet/author/historian Dave Oliphant‘s KD: A Jazz Biography (Wings Press, 2012) is a poetic tribute to the life of Jazz trumpeter and one of...

Texas poet/author/historian Dave Oliphant‘s KD: A Jazz Biography (Wings Press, 2012) is a poetic tribute to the life of Jazz trumpeter and one of the original Jazz Messengers, Kenny Dorham. Dorham, who played with some of the jazz greats like Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker, Art Blakey, Monk and many, many others, is less well known than many of his contemporaries, but Oliphant’s highly allusive and alliterative rhythms and rhymes open one’s ears, eyes and heart to the Texas-born and raised trumpet player. Oliphant describes Dorham’s small town roots:

Ken’s prodigious ear at five years old
Could pick out keyboard boogies cold
& from Sis’s 78s he could already tell
Louie on trumpet an equal of Gabriel

Oliphant also describes touches on Dorham’s gigs and experiences in New York City, the West Coast, Paris, South America, Scandinavia, and his untimely death from kidney disease at the age of 48 in 1972.

a brain filled with unseen notes heard
within his inner ears then out of tubes
& a gold or silver bell the valve lubes
had speeded along Messengers’ word

a prophetic phrase blues or bossa beat
a chase or a smoky-toned running line
to blend with any instrument compete
with none but under the brothers’ sign

KD: A Jazz Biography is also a trove of takes on Dorham’s performances. Readers will find themselves downloading songs and comparing Oliphant’s insights with their own. There are also comparisons to Dorham’s trumpet player peers, in particular, Clifford Brown. For those who take pride in the diversity of their jazz libraries, this is a book that is as unique, original and dignified as Dorham himself. Oliphant weaves his own extended literary, historical, biologic, poetic, and popular culture knowledge into this extended poem about one of jazz’s lesser-known but nonetheless highly talented and original players.

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