Though he has one of the most familiar voices of the television age, not many people recognize Bob Dorough's name--and even fewer know about his long career in jazz. In the 70s Dorough lent his talents to a series of educational spots called Schoolhouse Rock, singing beloved boob-tube hits like "I'm Just a Bill" and "Conjunction Junction." But in 1956--after he'd already recorded with Blossom Dearie in Paris and spent two years as Sugar Ray Robinson's arranger, conductor, and pianist during the boxer's bid for showbiz fame--Dorough cut one of the most exciting male jazz vocal albums ever made, Devil May Care. On vocalese versions of Charlie Parker's "Yardbird Suite" and Dizzy Gillespie's "Ow" and on his own hipster-chick ode, "You're the Dangerous Type," he revels in his pleasingly nerdy vox, outrageous timing, nimble phrasing, and self-effacing, sometimes ridiculous sense of humor. In ensuing years he's quietly continued to make records, including a goofy but interesting one with the Medieval Jazz Quartet Plus Three featuring a front line of recorders. And though he's done a variety of more straighforward projects, I also happened to catch him 15 years ago in a carnivalesque evening with vanguard trombonist Roswell Rudd and drummer Beaver Harris in Boston. In 1997, after Dorough had languished for decades on tiny labels, Blue Note surprised everybody by picking up his latest, Right on My Way Home. He's 74 now, but on this set of originals and standards his voice is still as quirky and wondrous as ever. (Sadly, his longtime partner, bassist Bill Takas, who recorded with him as early as Devil May Care, passed away last year; for this event, copresented by the Guild Complex, Dorough will be accompanied by bassist Larry Gray and drummer Charlie Braugham.) Wednesday, 7:30 PM, Preston Bradley Hall, Chicago Cultural Center, 78 E. Washington; 312-744-6630.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Jimmy Katz.