In the 1940s, he played in the big bands of Dizzy Gillespie, Billy Eckstine, Lionel Hampton and in Charlie Parker’s quintet. In the ‘50s, he cofounded The Jazz Messengers quintet, played in the Max Roach quintet and composed film scores. In the ‘60s, he led groups with Joe Henderson and Hank Mobley, and when declining health forced him to cut back on performing, he became a jazz journalist for DownBeat magazine. 

Kenny Dorham was “the greatest trumpeter most people never heard of,” said Gordon Vernick, trumpeter, coordinator of jazz studies at Georgia State University, and organizer of a tribute to Dorham scheduled for 3 p.m. Sunday at Kopleff Recital Hall. “He’s a legend, an icon for jazz musicians, though he never received his due from the music press. He collaborated with about every great musician you can think of. His records are treasures, especially to trumpet players.”

Several of those trumpet players will take part in the Dorham tribute. In addition to Vernick, one of Atlanta’s best known and most accomplished jazz musicians, Kopleff will host local jazz trumpeters Joe Gransden, Michael Cruse, Greg McLean, Terence Harper, Justin Powell and special guest Philip Harper. 

Each player will be featured on two Dorham tunes, followed by a collaboration on an arrangement by Cruse for five trumpets. They will be accompanied by an all-star cast: Kevin Bales on piano, Neal Starkey on double bass and Robert Boone Jr. on drums. In addition, Dorham memorabilia will be on display. 

Dorham is noted most for his bebop, distinguished not only by his inventiveness but also by his precise attack and rich, clear, warm sound. His style has been described as flowing and melodic. Among his compositions is the jazz standard “Blue Bossa,” a must-play for jazz students as well as performing professionals. 

According to the GSU School of Music, the concert is one of the first in Kopleff Hall with an admission charge — $10, general admission; $5 for students — “with the hopes of raising money to support the Georgia State Jazz scholarship program with the theme of ‘musicians who left a legacy continue to inspire generations of student musicians.’”

Vernick noted there is no state money for music scholarships. “The money comes mostly from endowments, from which we can draw a small percentage each year,” he said. “So we need to raise money and we’re hoping these concerts will generate donations.”

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