Saturday Night Tunes: Una Mas

Trumpeter Kenny Dorham is one of those guys who doesn’t get nearly the recognition that his skills as a jazz artist command. A bebop trumpeter who was talented enough to replace the almighty Clifford Brown in the Brown-Roach quintet upon Brown’s tragic death, he was also one of the original Jazz Messengers. Along the way he recorded with greats like Charlie Parker, Sonny Rollins, and Thelonious Monk, and his own groups should be celebrated as much for the young talent they produced–people like Hank Mobley, Bobby Timmons, Kenny Burrell, Tony Williams, and Herbie Hancock–as for the music they produced. Like Brown, Dorham also died too young, of kidney disease in 1972 at the age of 48, and you have to wonder if he’d be more famous today if he’d lived long enough to become one of jazz’s elder statesmen, like his frequent collaborator Joe Henderson.

Una Mas was recorded in 1963 and was one of Dorham’s last albums as a leader before obscurity and his illness caught up to him. Apart from Dorham on trumpet, the quintet includes Henderson on tenor sax, Hancock on piano, Butch Warren on bass, and Williams on drums. It was recorded a little over a month before Hancock and Williams, along with bassist Ron Carter, came together to form the rhythm section of what is now known as Miles Davis’s “Second Great Quintet.”

“Una Mas” is a long (15 minute-plus) jam on a 16 bar bossa nova with at times a heavy blues feel. Dorham, then Henderson, then Hancock take extended solos:

Next is “Straight Ahead,” a 32 bar swinger that features drumming by Williams that’s so good, you’d never believe the guy playing it was 17 years old at the time. Henderson’s solo steals the show for me, although I am admittedly a huge Joe Henderson fan:

“Sao Paulo” returns us to the title track’s bossa feel, inspired as it was by Dorham’s tour stop in São Paulo, Brazil a few years prior. The tune then switches gears in the solos, where it moves fluidly between bossa, swing, and something kind of approaching funk. I really like this one because of the constant textural changes:

The last tune on this short album is the only one not written by Dorham: the Loewe-Lerner ballad “If Ever I Would Leave You,” from their 1960 musical Camelot. If you just rolled your eyes a little, I wouldn’t blame you, but it actually kind of works, mostly thanks to Dorham:

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