There are great jazz singers—Ella, Sarah, Billie, Mel—and then there are deceptively great jazz singers whose rare qualities require a more discerning ear: Fred Astaire, Chet Baker, Mose Allison, Dave Frishberg and, with his hypnotic cat-scratch twang, Bob Dorough. Like his great friend Frishberg, Dorough, now 90, is also a first-tier pianist and songwriter, as well as a gifted arranger. His myriad skills are on glorious display across these nine tracks, recorded in 2011 with a midsize ensemble that includes saxophonist Phil Woods and Dorough’s daughter Aralee, principal flutist with the Houston Symphony.
Dorough opens and closes with the instrumental title track, which dates to his career’s earliest days, written for and recorded with Sam Most 61 years ago. In between he revisits two of his best-known songs—“But for Now” and “I’ve Got Just About Everything”—plus his stealthy “Love (Webster’s Dictionary)” (its title oddly altered from the original “Love [Webster’s Definition]”), the drolly off-key “Whatever Happened to Love Songs?” and the eight-minute “To Be or Not to Bop,” a scat-flecked paean to the jazz life. But it is the least-familiar Dorough composition, the slyly twisted gospel-meets-Basin-Street anthem “A Few Days of Glory,” written with Fran Landesman, that shines brightest, as two octogenarian masters, Dorough and Woods, gleefully strut their stuff.