Still going strong as he approaches 90, vocalist, pianist and songwriter Bob Dorough has irrefutably earned a place among the jazz greats. Still, recognition of his work (apart from his ditties for Schoolhouse Rock!, a childhood staple for Gen-X) remains frustratingly cultish.
But whatever Dorough lacks in wider appeal he more than makes up for in appreciation among fellow musicians. So it comes as no surprise that such an impressive cross-section of top-drawer artists—extending from the New York Voices and Janis Siegel to Grace Kelly and Nellie McKay—jumped at the chance to join forces with him across these 11 tracks. What is delightfully surprising is the durability of Dorough’s voice. His singular style—that charmingly reedy talk-sing, laying bare his Arkansas roots—is nearly as tart and fresh as when introduced in the mid-1950s.
Doubling as a richly diverse survey of his finest work as a composer and lyricist, Duets moves steadily from strength to strength: the Voices propelling a hard-swinging “Devil May Care”; McKay proving a charmingly giddy playmate on “I’m Hip”; Siegel and Dorough paired in vocalese brilliance on “Up Jumped a Bird”; Heather Masse co-navigating an inky “Love Came on Stealthy Fingers”; Kelly and Dorough circling atop a sweet “I’m Waiting for Someone.” But the pièce de résistance is Dorough and JD Walter’s marvelous tag-team romp through a steadily accelerating “I’ve Got Just About Everything.”