KD: A Jazz Biography
Tall tales of Texas and beyond
Reviewed by Jay Trachtenberg, Fri., June 15, 2012
KD: A Jazz Biographyby Dave Oliphant
Wings Press, 192 pp., $19.95
It will take a few pages to get absorbed into its flow, but once you get a handle on the literally poetic grace of this fascinating narrative on Texas jazz trumpeter Kenny Dorham, KD grooves with all the soul and verve of a bebop solo. Dorham (1924-1972) spent his adolescence in Austin, attending the old, segregated Anderson High School before moving on to a prolific career playing with Charlie Parker, Sonny Rollins, and Andrew Hill, to name three notables. Oliphant, a retired UT Austin senior lecturer and author of 1996's authoritative Texan Jazz, crafts a labor-intensive project that not only covers the breadth of the jazz man's career but sets it in rhyming quatrains. It helps to be familiar with Dorham's life and music since much of the prose refers to fellow musicians, song titles, recording sessions, and a jazz milieu in general that will leave novices out in the cold. By the same token, the author's periodic references to mythology and the classics left this reader high and dry. Nevertheless, Oliphant is to be commended for this unique spotlight on a historically underappreciated Texas jazz giant.