Sunday, November 23, 2008

The Bountiful Feast: Fish For Supper

Bob Dorough: Fish For Supper


The name may not ring a bell, but children of the seventies and eighties know both the songs and the voice of bebop and cool jazzman Bob Dorough through Schoolhouse Rock, a series of shorts which ran on network television throughout my childhood and theirs. But there's much more to Dorough than Three is a Magic Number -- the inaugural song for what would become a seminal childhood experience for an entire generation -- and the fifty other tunes he penned and performed during the twelve-year run of the "Schoolhouse" series.

In the jazzworld, Dorough is known for his influence on (and work with) over a half century of pianists and other jazzmen from Blossom Dearie to Mose Allison. His early gigs included tap dancer accompanist, mid-set performer for genre-stretching comedian Lenny Bruce, and musical director for the song and dance revue of boxer Sugar Ray Robinson, and any jazzfan with even a basic familiarity with his work can hear the influence of all three -- tap trope, comedy timing, and song-and-dance -- in his later work. As co-writer of Comin' Home Baby, he was responsible for Mel Torme's Grammy nominations; he is especially noteworthy, in fact, for being the only "halfway decent singer" to appear on a Miles Davis album.

Dorough's solo work is often overlooked amidst his influence, but I find it delicious and delightful. Here, Dorough turns his distinctively pinched half-scat vocalese and playful sense of humor to Fish for Supper, one of my favorite tunes from my absolute favorite Bob Dorough album, Too Much Coffee Man. The song, like the album overall, features bouncy sax and hi-hat, cool bebop piano, and wryly inane lyrics sung practically in tune, and in homophonic parallel with the lead instrument. If you only introduce yourself to one new jazz musician before the century is over, make Bob Dorough the one...and start with Too Much Coffee Man, purchasable above.

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