The oldest continuously running jazz club in America isn’t in New York, Chicago or New Orleans but in the Delaware Water Gap of Pennsylvania, where for nearly seven decades the Deer Head Inn has hosted everyone from Stan Getz to Keith Jarrett. If the Deer Head can claim a resident headliner, it is surely Bob Dorough, who, nearing 94, still makes regular appearances. This particular set, featuring trio-mates Steve Berger (guitar) and Pat O’Leary (bass), plus two special guests, was captured on Dec. 12, 2015, Dorough’s 92nd birthday.
Dorough’s rank among the sharpest songwriters of his (or any) generation is beyond question, as is his prowess as a pianist. As a singer he is utterly unique, a peerless blend of grit and charm, imps dancing with angels. And Dorough is superb at shaping set lists, as evidenced here with a marvellous intermingling of Richard Rodgers, Bacharach and David, Ray Noble, Jack Teagarden and originals familiar (“Devil May Care”), new (the beautifully contemplative “Summer Solstice”), witty (“Wily Wily Woman”) and sly (“It’s Bound to End in Tears,” co-written with the equally crafty Fran Landesman).
Ever the gentleman, Dorough leaves plenty of room for laudable contributions from across the bandstand, including daughter Aralee’s keenly navigated, three-and-a-half-minute flute intro to “Flamingo,” thoughtful solos from O’Leary and Berger on Rodgers’ wishful “The Sweetest Sounds” and, on harmonica, Larry Fink’s bluesy, mischievous propulsion of “Wily Wily Woman.”