Jazz Historian and Poet Dave Oliphant
In KD: a Jazz Biography, noted poet and jazz historian Dave Oliphant has written in nearly 200 pages of tightly-constructed rhymed quatrains the first biography of internationally-acclaimed Texas jazz trumpeter Kenny Dorham (1924-1972). Beginning in 1963 with Dorham’s recordings with jazz musicians in Denmark, this book-length poem in seventeen “chapters” or cantos traces the story of the Texan’s career of performing and recording with the greatest musicians of the bop and hard bop eras in jazz history (from Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Bud Powell, Thelonious Monk, Art Blakey, Sonny Rollins and Max Roach to John Coltrane and Eric Dolphy, among countless others).
After surveying some of the outstanding jazzmen like Dorham who performed in Scandinavia, Oliphant chronicles the trumpeter’s early years in Texas and then moves on to his time in New York with “Bird” Parker, a short period in California, his return to the Big Apple, his “have horn will travel” experiences in Paris, South America, Denmark, Sweden, and Norway, and his many associations with the top musicians of his day, as well as his role as a leader of recording sessions and of his lamentably short-lived group the Jazz Prophets. Although Dorham worked in the shadow of trumpeters Gillespie, Miles Davis, and Clifford Brown, he remains today something of a cult figure whose stature has only increased since his premature death at age 48.
To call this work on Kenny Dorham a labor of love is an understatement. Dave Oliphant has taken even the most mundane details of this great jazzman's life and turned all of it into poetry.
—Krin Gabbard, author of Hotter Than That: The Trumpet, Jazz, and American Culture
With an astoundingly unique structure of line length and rhyme, Dave Oliphant has incorporated and turned into poetry a vast and impressive knowledge of jazz. The text and its deeply researched factual information and at times nearly Shakespearean and Spenserian richness of language will long provide and
provoke both pleasure and scholarship.
—David Ray, author of Hemingway: A Desperate Life and Music of Time: Selected and New Poems
In a series of rhymed quatrains, Dave Oliphant chronicles the musical life of Kenny Dorham, and he riffs along with his fellow Texian in full stride and with his own "trills and loping staccatos." You'll want to have your Dorham vinyl records or CD reissues close by to listen anew to the sounds the poet calls forth.
—Joe W. Specht, author of The Women There Don't Treat You Mean and co-editor of The Roots of Texas Music
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Dave Oliphant is a native Texan poet, a recently retired (2006) senior lecturer at the University of Texas in Austin, the editor of The Library Chronicle, a noted writer on the history of Jazz in Texas, and editor/publisher of Prickly Pear Press. His recent books include a volume of poems, Backtracking (2004), a collection of essays, Jazz Mavericks of the Lone Star State (2007), and two translations of collections of Chilean poetry: Love Hound by Oliver Welden (winner of the poetry prize at the 2007 New York Book Festival) and After Dinner Declarations by Nicanor Parra (2009). Oliphant’s 548-page memoir, Harbingers of Books to Come: A Texan’s Literary Life, was published by Wings Press in 2009.
Oliphant was born in Fort Worth in 1939. He graduated from the University of Texas with an M.A. and took his Ph.D. at Northern Illinois University. Dave and his wife María, a native of Chile, have been married for 45 years and have a son and a daughter and four grandchildren.
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